Gevo, Inc. will be partnering with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on a project to improve the energy density of certain Gevo hydrocarbon products, such as its alcohol-to-jet-fuel (ATJ) (earlier post), to meet product specifications for tactical fuels for specialized military applications such as RJ-4 (exo-dime- thyltetrahydrodicylopentadienes), RJ-6 (a blend of JP-10 and RJ-5) and JP-10 (exo-Tetrahydrodicyclopentadiene). ChemCatBio, a consortium within the US Department of Energy, awarded funding to LANL in support of the project as one of 9 projects to accelerate the development of catalysts and related technologies for the commercialization of biomass-derived fuels and chemicals.
Gevo and LANL are looking to develop a low-cost, catalytic technology that would be bolted-on to Gevo’s existing isobutanol-to-hydrocarbons process to produce high energy density fuels (HEDFs). The proposed approach would develop air-stable, photocatalysts on solid support for flow reactors. Photocatalytic (visible light) cylcoadditions would increase energy density upon cyclization by at least 100 kJ/mol. With the successful scale-up of this technology, it is believed that Gevo’s HEDFs could be produced at a lower cost than the petroleum-based equivalent, even at current oil prices.
HEDFs are currently used in air and sea-launched cruise missiles used by the US military forces. If this project is successful in scaling HEDFs cost-effectively, there may be an even broader application in the general aviation sector, enabling higher energy density jet fuel that would provide superior mileage to traditional aviation fuels.
High energy density fuels have the potential to increase the range of an aircraft or increase the payload that could be carried. That gives an obvious tactical advantage, but if this could eventually be scaled for wider use then translating these benefits to commercial airlines would have an even greater global impact.—Dr. Andrew Sutton of Los Alamos National Laboratory
Gevo has developed proprietary technology that uses a combination of synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering to focus primarily on the production of isobutanol, as well as related products from renewable feedstocks. Gevo’s strategy is to commercialize bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products to allow for the optimization of fermentation facilities’ assets, with the ultimate goal of maximizing cash flows from the operation of those assets.
Gevo produces isobutanol, ethanol and high-value animal feed at its fermentation plant in Luverne, Minnesota. Gevo has also developed technology to produce hydrocarbon products from renewable alcohols. Gevo currently operates a biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, in collaboration with South Hampton Resources Inc., to produce renewable jet fuel, octane, and ingredients for plastics like polyester.