July 10, 2012

Biobased isobutanol updates

US bio-butanol producers Gevo and Butamax have been very busy churning out press releases while I was away, and the blog received another two from Gevo this morning.  

Gevo announced today that it has partnered with Italy-based Beta Renewables to develop an integrated process for the production of cellulosic-based isobutanol.
The project would combine Beta's PROESA technology (focusing on cellulosic feedstock pretreatment), Gevo's GIFT process (focusing on isobutanol manufacture via fermentation), and ATJ technologies (I am still trying to figure this one out and has asked Gevo for a background on this technology).
Gevo and Beta Renewables are said to be evaluating future opportunities to partner on other US and international projects with a long-term goal of developing a licensable package for future third parties.
Speaking of cellulosic isobutanol, the blog mentioned last month of Gevo's intent to manufacture the product in Southeast Asia as the company has signed a collaborative agreement with Malaysia's BiotechCorp and East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) to build a plant at a biorefinery complex in Kertih, Terengganu.
Gevo's plan is to have a cellulosic isobutanol plant in operation by late 2015 or early 2016.
Another announcement from Gevo today is their progress on the newly-started 18m gal/year bio-isobutanol plant in Luverne, Minnesota. The company said it was able to successfully ferment isobutanol in large 250,000 gal commercial fermenters, and transport it in tanks and railcars.
Some of the initial isobutanol produced will be shipped to customers such as Sasol. Gevo said it plans to be in the start-up/learning mode of operations for most of 2012.
By the way, the production in Luverne was almost jeopardized last month when rival Butamax filed a preliminary injunction request to bar Gevo from operating the plant and selling bio-isobutanol produced from the plant because of ongoing patent disputes. The District Court of Delaware denied the request on June 20.
Butamax released a statement saying that the company plans an immediate appeal to the court's decision. Yesterday, a judge has issued a temporary order restraining Gevo to supply the automotive fuel blendstock market with its bio-isobutanol from Luverne during Butamax's appeal process.
Gevo said yesterday that it has filed an appeal regarding the order and testing for automobile fuels will continue but with non-biobased isobutanol. The company said it is still free to operate in markets such as chemicals, jet fuel, marine fuel, small engine fuel and all other markets.
Other recent news from Gevo and Butamax on bio-isobutanol:
  • Butamax Early Adopters Group surpasses capacity targets with addition of Big River. Membership represents 11 production facilities and nearly 900 million gallons of ethanol capacity
  • Gevo and BioFuel Energy collaborates to explore large-scale isobutanol production

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