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Clariant to scale-up catalysts for Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology; renewable diesel and hydrogen

Gevo, Inc. has entered into an agreement with Clariant Corp., one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, to develop catalysts to enable Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology.

Gevo’s ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock, produces tailored mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and commodity plastics, that would be drop-in replacements for their fossil-based equivalents. ETO is a chemical process, not a biological process as is Gevo’s conversion of biomass to isobutanol.

Underpinning the ETO technology was Gevo’s invention of proprietary mixed-metal-oxide catalysts that produce polymer-grade propylene or high purity isobutylene, along with hydrogen in high yields in a single processing step from conventional fuel-grade specification ethanol. Changes of process conditions lead to different product mixes in same capital base.

For each 1 million gallons of ethanol feedstock, the following could produced, according to Gevo:

  • 1.5 KT of Acetone, or
  • 1.1 KT of Propylene, which can be converted to
    • 1.7 KT of n-Butanol
    • 300K Gallons of diesel or Jet
  • AND 0.18 to 0.2 KT of hydrogen (depending on co-products)
    • Which equates to ~0.5 MW of electricity
    • Or can be sold as renewable hydrogen

Clariant is committed to the development and scale-up of the catalyst, which is expected to continue the advancement of the ETO technology, while Gevo focuses the majority of its internal resources on the ongoing optimization of its core isobutanol technology.

Once the ETO technology has been successfully developed and scaled-up, Clariant will be in a position to produce quantities of the catalyst needed to meet commercial production requirements. As with its isobutanol technology, Gevo anticipates growing its ETO business through licensing.

Gevo has filed a series of patent applications related to this technology. The ETO technology has the potential to provide the estimated 25 billion gallon global ethanol industry a much broader set of end-product market and margin opportunities, beyond the use of ethanol as a gasoline blendstock.

It has the potential to address a variety of markets in the chemicals and fuels fields, such as automobile parts, packaging, durable goods made of plastic, renewable diesel fuel and renewable hydrogen for the chemical, energy and fuel cell markets.

We see the opportunity for Clariant catalysts to convert ethanol, produced from cellulosic or other carbohydrate sources, into more value-added products to create greater growth potential for the ethanol industry.

—Stefan Brejc, Head of Specialty Catalysts Business Segment at Clariant

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