Gevo: a 5-Minute Guide

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Jim Lane

gevo logoAddress: 345 Inverness Dr. South; Bldg. C; Suite 345, Englewood, CO 80112

Year founded:




Type of Technology(ies): Gevo has two proprietary technologies that combine to make it possible to retrofit existing ethanol plants to produce isobutanol, a four carbon alcohol which serves as a  hydrocarbon platform molecule.  We have developed a robust industrial scale yeast biocatalyst to produce isobutanol without typical byproducts operating at parameters equivalent to commercial ethanol producers.  The second piece of technology is a separations unit that operates continuously and removes isobutanol during fermentation.

This helps reduce distillation requirements, thereby reducing process energy consumption. With its exclusive engineering partner, ICM, Gevo completed its first commercial retrofit of a 22 MGPY corn ethanol plant in Luverne, MN and started producing isobutanol in early 2012.

Gevo will produce isobutanol, a four carbon alcohol that can be dehydrated using well known technology to isobutylene, a C4 hydrocarbon.  Isobutanol has 30% more energy content than ethanol and can be blended into gasoline without modifying automobile engines.  Isobutanol is a low RVP blendstock and less soluble in water than ethanol.  It can be transported in pipelines and be dispensed in existing retail pumps.  Isobutanol is a biofuel that carries a RIN value of 1.3 and It can be an advanced biofuel from corn if it achieves a 50% GHG reduction.

Isobutanol also has a market as a chemical solvent.  The opportunity for isobutylene spans many C4 markets in jet fuel, paraxylene, PET and other multi-billion dollar applications in fuels, synthetic rubber, chemicals and plastics.

Gevo has a number of off-take agreements and has announced non-binding letters of intent to supply Total for gasoline blendstock; United Airlines for biojet; Lanxess for butyl rubber; and, Toray industries for p-xylene.

Product Cost: Gevo’s isobutanol should be competitively priced with C4 petrochemical streams and low RVP gasoline blendstock components.

Past Milestones

Gevo successfully commissioned its 1MGPY demonstration plant in late September, 2009 in St. Joseph, MO in cooperation with ICM.  In September of 2010, Gevo completed acquisition of the 22 MPGY ethanol plant owned by Agri Energy in Luverne, MN.  Retrofit construction is planned to begin early in 2011 and be completed by the end of the year.  Isobutanol should begin production in Luverne early in 2012.

Future Milestones

Gevo started commercial production in summer 2012 in Luverne, MN.  They also plan to bring another 50-200 MGPY of capacity into the development pipeline, commencing with the Redfield Ethanol Plant in Redfield, SD. Further commercial supply agreements are expected to be announced.  In 2012-13, Gevo will begin to implement its ex-USA strategy.

Business Model: (e.g. owner-operator, technology licensor, fee-based industry supplier, investor)

Gevo has developed its technology to retrofit ethanol plants to produce isobutanol.  Gevo has a flexible business model, i.e., it will own and operate production capacity or align with others in joint venture or lease arrangements.  Gevo will also license its technology.  We plan to partner with cellulosic conversion companies to develop and commercialize cellulosic isobutanol for the gasoline and jet fuel markets.

Competitive Edge(s):

Gevo’s proprietary retrofit technology is a cost efficient (approx. $0.40/gallon) and rapid (12 months) retrofit of first generation ethanol capacity to make isobutanol.  Gevo’s exclusive collaboration with ICM, the premier engineering services company in the ethanol industry with over 60% of the installed capacity, is another competitive advantage.  Finally, our flexible business model enables us to work with investor owned and farmer owned ethanol producers through acquisitions, joint ventures or lease arrangements.  Gevo will be able to deploy cellulosic butanol technology as soon as conversion technology is available for biomass refineries.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.

Gevo has an exclusive collaboration with ICM for the retrofit of ethanol plants in North America.  Gevo also has an exclusive technology alliance with Cargill to develop a yeast biocatalyst for cellulosic isobutanol.

Stage (Bench, pilot, demonstration, commercial): Commercial

Disclosure: None.

Jim Lane is editor and publisher  of Biofuels Digest where this article was originally published. Biofuels Digest is the most widely read  Biofuels daily read by 14,000+ organizations. Subscribe here.


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