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Total Invests in Series D Round of Butanol and Renewable Hydrocarbons Company Gevo

Oil and gas major Total has invested an undisclosed amount in the series D round of advanced biofuels company Gevo.

Gevo was founded in 2005 by Drs. Frances Arnold, Matthew Peters and Peter Meinhold of the California Institute of Technology. The company is focused on the development of advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals based on isobutanol and its derivatives. Gevo’s technology enables the cost-effective, practical production of renewable hydrocarbons such as isooctene and isooctane for the gasoline market, renewable jet fuel and renewable diesel blendstocks. Gevo has already produced renewable gasoline and jet fuel that meet or exceed all ASTM specifications.

In addition, Gevo’s technology enables the production of a wide variety of chemicals such as isobutylene and paraxylene from renewable resources.

As an advanced biofuel itself, isobutanol strikes a balance between high octane content and low vapor pressure. Its energy content is similar to gasoline and it is compatible with the current petrochemical distribution system, including pipelines. Gevo’s low cost, high purity isobutanol technology enables the production of renewable hydrocarbons fuels for the gasoline, diesel and jet markets and Gevo’s technology also provides a direct, low cost route to renewable isobutylene and other chemicals.

Gevo’s commercialization approach includes retro-fitting existing ethanol facilities to produce isobutanol hydrocarbon products readily used in the refining and chemical industry. Later this summer, Gevo will bring a 1 million gallon per year semi-works plant in St. Joseph, Missouri at ICM’s St. Joseph, Mo., biofuels research center on line and start developing its customer base for the commercial facility scheduled to come on line in early 2011.

In December 2007, Gevo acquired an exclusive license for a method developed by Dr. James Liao at UCLA for modifying the metabolic pathway of E.coli bacteria for the non-fermentative synthesis of higher alcohols including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol from glucose. In particular, Liao achieved high-yield, high-specificity production of isobutanol from glucose. (Earlier post.) Dr. Liao is on Gevo’s scientific advisory board.

In November 2008, Gevo and ICM, Inc. formed a strategic alliance for the commercial development of Gevo’s Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT) that enables the production of isobutanol and hydrocarbons from retrofitted ethanol plants. (Earlier post.)

In January 2009, Gevo and Bye Energy announced a development agreement to jointly explore opportunities for the marketing and distribution of renewable aviation fuels to small and medium-sized airports.

In February 2009, Gevo, Inc. announced a licensing agreement with Cargill that will further enable the manufacture of renewable hydrocarbons for fuels and chemicals from cellulosic crop sources. Under the terms of this agreement, Gevo will have exclusive rights to integrate Cargill’s world class microorganisms into its GIFT process to produce butanols from cellulosic sugars that are derived from plant materials such as corn stover, switchgrass, forest residues, and other sustainable feedstocks.

We are proud to have developed this technology and think that Gevo is an ideal partner to commercialize it. Commercial production systems like the one Gevo has developed for butanols provide a solid framework for deploying our technology. We are excited at the possibilities for converting cellulosic sugars into renewable fuels and chemicals.

—Jack Staloch, Vice President and Director of Cargill’s Biotechnology Development Center


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