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Gevo to supply alcohol-to-jet fuel to Virgin Australia

Gevo, Inc. expects to supply its renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) (earlier post) to the Virgin Australia Group. The Virgin Australia Group will be responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the ATJ into the fuel supply system at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia.

Gevo’s ATJ is expected to be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied on flights departing Brisbane Airport, including Virgin Australia flights. It is currently contemplated that Gevo will ship the first gallons of ATJ to the Virgin Australia Group in October 2017.

Gevo will supply the ATJ from its hydrocarbon plant based in Silsbee, Texas. The ATJ is derived from isobutanol produced at its commercial isobutanol plant located in Luverne, Minnesota.

  • Isobutanol produced from starch or biomass is dehydrated over an acidic catalyst to produce isobutylene, which is then further reacted to product mixtures of longer chain aliphatic hydrocarbons. A portion of this material is reacted separately to form high density aromatic compounds.

  • Hydrogen gas, a byproduct of the aromatization reaction, is used to remove unsaturated bonds in the aliphatic material.

  • The hydrocarbons then are blended in proportions that can meet all ASTM standards for fuels: isooctane is a dimer of dehydrated isobutanol and is a major component of the premium value alkylates, a key gasoline component; a trimer of the isobutylene (dehydrated isobutanol) is a jet fuel blend stock; a polymer of four and five isobutylenes can make a diesel blend stock.

Gevo is looking to expand its isobutanol production capabilities at the Luverne Facility to enable larger production volumes of its ATJ in the future. Gevo has a goal in 2017 of obtaining binding supply contracts for a combination of isobutanol and hydrocarbon products (ATJ and isooctane) equal to at least 50% of the capacity of the anticipated expanded Luverne Facility.

These supply contracts are expected to form the basis on which Gevo would set the specific configuration of the Luverne Facility in terms of end product mix between isobutanol, ATJ and isooctane.

The Queensland government is supporting the arrangement as a first step in the development of a renewable jet fuel production industry in the state. Queensland is looking to leverage carbohydrate-based feedstocks, abundant to its local agricultural sector, to support the build-out of renewable jet fuel production plants in the future. Gevo is well positioned to play a role in this growth, as the company believes its ATJ is cost advantaged in comparison to other renewable jet alternatives derived from carbohydrate-based feedstocks.

We are excited to work in partnership with Virgin Australia, the Queensland government and the Brisbane Airport Corporation to enable flights out of the Brisbane Airport using our ATJ. We believe Queensland offers huge potential for low-cost, biomass-based feedstocks to produce biofuels. When I visited Queensland last year for the Biofutures Industry Forum, I discovered the depth and diversity of its agriculture sector. It really opened our eyes to Queensland’s potential for sustainable aviation fuels based on Gevo’s ATJ technology.

—Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO

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