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Gevo awarded patent covering low-cost separation technology to remove isobutanol from fermentation broth

10 October 2012

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded Gevo Patent Nº 8,283,505, covering the separation technology in Gevo’s Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT). Gevo says its technology is the most cost-efficient for the separation of C3–C6 alcohols—including isobutanol—from dilute aqueous solutions such as fermentation broths.

Fermentation and recovery may be conducted simultaneously. The combination of recovery during fermentation has several key economic advantages. This combination provides improved volumetric productivity for the fermentation and allows recovery of the alcohol. An additional economic advantage is the reduction in energy required to dry the spent fermentation broth. This reduction occurs because the batch concentration of the alcohol product recovered for a given fermentation is raised by the simultaneous fermentation and recovery process which increases the quantity of alcohol produced and recovered per quantity of fermentation broth dried. The term “batch concentration” refers to the concentration for a given fermentor volume based on all of the C3-C6 alcohol produced during the batch fermentation even if some of the C3-C6 alcohol is removed during the fermentation. Thus, the present invention allows for production and recovery of C3-C6 alcohols at low capital and reduced operating costs.

—Patent Nº 8,283,505

The GIFT system permits the continuous removal of isobutanol as it is formed in the fermentation broth. This increases productivity of the genetically modified yeast cells because yeast does not thrive in high concentrations of isobutanol, said Brett Lund, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Gevo. The technology also increases final isobutanol concentrations extracted from the fermentation broth, he added.

The USPTO granted the ‘505 Patent in view of art cited against Gevo’s earlier-issued U.S. Patent No. 8,101,808 in a reexamination request filed by Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC.

This means that the USPTO has determined that the ‘505 Patent is novel and inventive over the publications referenced in reexamination of the ‘808 Patent. Given the thorough examination conducted by the USPTO, we believe the patent is quite strong and capable of withstanding challenges by competitors who are attempting to produce isobutanol with inferior technologies. We believe these competitors will have great difficulty in producing isobutanol at competitive costs without licensing this technology from Gevo.

—Brett Lund

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