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Consolidated bioprocessing company Aemetis licenses plant oil hydroprocessing technology from Chevron Lummus Global for renewable jet and diesel

Outline of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process. Source: ARA. Click to enlarge.

Aemetis, Inc., originally known as AE Biofuels, an industrial biotechnology company producing renewable chemicals and advanced fuels using patented microbes and processes, has signed a license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) for the use of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process for the production of 100% drop-in renewable jet fuel and diesel from plant oils.

The Biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process utilizes patented Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) reactor technology, developed by Applied Research Associates (ARA). CH utilizes water to reduce hydrogen and catalyst consumption and quickly and inexpensively converts plant oils into stable intermediate oil products which are very similar to petroleum crude oil. The intermediate oils are then hydrotreated and deoxygenated using CLG’s ISOCONVERSION catalysts to produce drop-in jet fuel and diesel.

In May of this year, CLG joined ARA’s ReadiJet Alternative Fuel Initiative for drop-in biofuels. The joint development efforts combine the CH PROCESS with CLG’s ISOCONVERSION process technology.

CLG is a completely integrated source for hydroprocessing technologies, catalysts, reactor internals and engineering and is a 50-50 joint venture between Chevron Products Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, and Lummus Technology Inc., a CBI Company.

With the combination of ARA’s CH PROCESS and CLG’s ISOCONVERSION process technology, we can now produce fungible distillate fuels that meet ful ASTM quality requirements and can be blended into refiners’s distillate fuel pools without the density and blending issues associated with other biodiesel processes on the market. We’re also excited that our process works just as well with any other fatty acid bio-derived oils, plant seed oils and algal oil, which will provide long lasting value for our customers by giving them flexibility to process what is available in the market.

—Leon DeBruyn, CLG CO-Managing Director

In July 2011, Aemetis—then called AE Biofuels—completed the acquisition of Zymetis, Inc., a Maryland-based industrial biotechnology company developing products for the renewable chemicals and advanced fuels industries. (Earlier post.) Zymetis held patents on the Z-microbe, a marine organism (Saccharophagus degradans 2-40) that was originally discovered consuming plant cellulose at a high rate in the Chesapeake Bay.

Zymetis’ scientists discovered that the Z-microbe naturally generates about 90 enzymes that rapidly convert sugar, starch, and cellulose into useable chemicals and fuels. (Dr. Steven Hutchinson, the founder of Zymetis, is on Aemetis’ Board of Directors.)

Aemetis Advanced Fuels, a subsidiary of Aemetis, retrofitted and operates a 55 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Keyes, California. Aemetis subsidiary Aemetis International built a 50 million gallon per year integrated chemical and fuels plant in India.

The company is developing a consolidated bioprocessing approach using the Z-Microbe to produce isoprenes, monoterpenes and fuels from sugars. The licensing of the CLG ISOCONVERSION process opens up another major pathway for the company for the production of renewable fuels.

This technology is ideally suited for the conversion of existing biofuels production facilities by utilizing the rail siding, feedstock unloading, raw material storage tanks, power generation units, Clean In Place system, neat fuel storage tanks and loadout equipment.

Expanding or converting existing biofuels and refining facilities to use the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process accelerates the scale-up of production to supply the 70 billion gallon per year global market for jet fuel and the 50 billion gallon US market for diesel.

—Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis


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