BGT's new method for the production of hexane or heptanone is a two-step process. The first step very closely resembles the traditional production of ethanol through the fermentation of sugars. Instead of ethanol, however, butyric acid is produced. The butyric acid is converted into hexane via Kolbe Electrolysis and heptanone via a packed bed reaction. Both hexane and heptanol can be used as alternative fuels and chemical derivatives like solvents.
As with ethanol, a variety of sugars can be used, including glucose, xylose, and fructose. These sugars can be obtained from a variety of sources. Most ethanol producers currently favor using corn products, given the crop’s wide availability, though the use of cellulosic and hemi-cellulosic biomasses is also possible. BGT could use both feedstocks as well. Examples of cellulosic biomass include grass, wood, and cellulose-rich residues resulting from agriculture or the forest products industry. Corn is easier, and currently less expensive, to process than is cellulosic biomass. However, cellulosic biomass is less expensive to produce than corn by a factor of roughly 2 on a per ton basis, and production per acre of land of a given quality is higher for cellulosic biomass than for to corn. Relative to corn, production of a perennial cellulosic biomass crop such as switchgrass requires lower inputs of energy, fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide, and is accompanied by less erosion and improved soil fertility.