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Gevo Biobutanol Retrofit Plant Starts Up; Gevo Launches Development Company to Retrofit Ethanol Plants

Gevo, Inc., a biobutanol and renewable hydrocarbons company, announced the start up of its first biobutanol demonstration plant designed from retrofitting an existing demonstration scale ethanol plant to produce biobutanol. (Earlier post.) In successfully producing biobutanol at the 1 million gallon per year pilot plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, Gevo is demonstrating the viability of its technology for retrofitting existing ethanol plants to make biobutanol.

Gevo’s biobutanol can be blended directly into gasoline. Gevo’s technology also enables using the biobutanol for the production of renewable hydrocarbons such as isooctene and isooctane for the gasoline market, renewable jet fuel and renewable diesel blendstocks. In addition, Gevo’s technology enables the production of a wide variety of chemicals such as isobutylene and paraxylene from renewable resources.

Biobutanol has higher energy content than ethanol and a lower Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), which means lower volatility and evaporative emissions. Standard automobile and small engines can run on biobutanol blended into gasoline at any ratio, according to Gevo.

This is the first time that an existing ethanol operation has been successfully retrofitted to produce biobutanol instead of ethanol. ICM’s pilot plant at St. Joseph has been designed and constructed as a reduced scale replica of a dry-milled ethanol production process. The retrofit of the pilot plant was completed in less than three months. This successful retrofit also represents the first step along the route to produce cellulosic biobutanol which will be possible once biomass conversion technology becomes commercially available.

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 using engineered microbes. Corporate developments over the past year have included:

  • In October 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. This resulted in the construction of the demonstration plant.

  • 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. (Earlier post.)

  • 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.

  • In April 2009, oil and gas major Total invested an undisclosed amount in the series D round. (Earlier post.)

Separately, Gevo has formed Gevo Development, LLC to develop a fleet of biorefineries based on retrofitting existing ethanol plants with Gevo’s proprietary technology to produce biobutanol. Biobutanol is an advanced biofuel that can be blended directly into gasoline and be used to make renewable hydrocarbons (green gasoline), jet and diesel fuel, chemical intermediates and bio-based plastics.

The development company will enable us to secure production capacity by retrofitting existing plants to make commercial volumes to meet demand for advanced biofuels. Gevo Development’s business model is open—it will include acquisitions, joint ventures and tolling arrangements providing flexibility to existing owners and lenders.

—Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo

Gevo Development, LLC will be managed by Mike Slaney and David Black who have significant experience in the financing, acquisition and operation of ethanol facilities. Slaney and Black co-founded and raised over $430 million to capitalize ASABiofuels, the largest project financing ever completed in the ethanol industry.



This could be an excellent first step towards the production of a better sustainable biofuel.


I would like it more if they would tout the cost per gallon of the resulting biobutanol. Biobutanol's problem in the past has always been low yeilds and unmarketable biproducts. I hope this works, as it is a step in the right direction.

Henry Gibson

With the same subsidies that ethanol producers are getting, butanol could be useful.

Biofuels must not be encouraged in any way. There are only five percent of the original Redwood forests of the US standing. How many percent of the open grasslands where the buffalo roamed still exist.

Many of the same processes used to convert biomass fuels can be used to make the same biomass digestible to cattle. Ethanol, itself, is a useful food.

Any environmentalist who promotes biofuels could reexamine the facts and long history of the destruction of the natural earth by the use of bio-fuels and bio-foods.

Yes we must reduce the CO2 being produced, but this would be far faster done by converting biomass to charcoal and putting it into the soil. ..HG..


Henry (and to other biofuel skeptics) I have one word...........algae.

You don't need farmlands or forests to get sustainable biofuels. Watch this space.

Nick Lyons

Huge amounts of grain are converted into a potent greenhouse gas (methane) by feeding said grain to cattle. Reducing beef consumption is one of the greenest actions one can take. If you replace beef by eating the grain directly (along with other low energy intensive foods), you can lower your carbon footprint and improve your health at the same time.

How efficiently we use biomass for food is just as important as how efficiently we use it for fuel.


How about cap and trade on flatulence?


The point is that ethanol producers want the EPA to raise the limit of ethanol in gasoline for regular vehicles to 15% and they are hitting a brick wall with no end in sight. If biobutanol can be mixed with gasoline at any ratio, with no need for engine modifications, this could be a windfall for ethanol producers. Remember there is a lot of R & D going on with non-corn ethanol (ie. Miscanthus and Sweet Sorghum) - Florida has some major projects on the horizon. If it wasn't for CAPITALISM would GEVO even exist? Viva capitalism!


I would have cellulose E10 and E85 across the U.S. and make all cars sold from 2012 on FFVs.



Chicken meat is a good replacement and could reduce methane production (for edible meat) by up to 80%.


Chicken meat doesn't get you drunk and gets clogged in my car's fuel filter. ;-)

FFV makes a lot of sense...I'm just not sure when or if we can make enough ethanol to be worth the infrastructure costs of piping ethanol around. FFV series hybrids with small capacitor and saw-tooth stop-start cycles so they only run half the time and always at peak efficiency could be very fuel efficient.


It would take a major effort to move cellulose ethanol along more rapidly. Transporting ethanol is done by rail and truck now, but pipelines could be created. It takes commitment and follow through that we have not seen so far.


Better than chicken : Rabbit, not CH4 flatulence and it eats grass, in contrast to chicken that require grain. Rabbit is an excellent quality meat, almost no fat, and can be very tasty. By the way Wallabies can be a option too, good meat, eat grass and no CH4 emission.

But you can eat lentill, beans, peas, which when coumpound with wheat or rice gives you all the protein you need, plus fiber, iron, and slow carb that regulates your glucose. Plus you can slash teh amount of land you need by 1/2 to feed population

We don't necessarily breakthrough in technology to make the world better

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