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Gevo and Beta Renewables (Chemtex/TPG) to develop integrated process for cellulosic isobutanol

Gevo, Inc. signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with Beta Renewables, a joint venture between Chemtex and TPG, to develop an integrated process for the production of bio-based isobutanol from cellulosic, non-food biomass.

The project would integrate Beta’s PROESA technology and Gevo’s GIFT and ATJ technologies, with anticipated production plants to be located where cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass, miscanthus, agriculture residues and other biomass will be readily available. The agreement also anticipates commercialization of the technology upon project success, which could enable renewably sourced, competitively priced jet fuel as well as other chemicals and fuels made from isobutanol.

Gevo has always said that we are feedstock agnostic and, when the technology and feedstock supply chain are ready, we would use our isobutanol process with cellulosic feedstocks. This allows us to access a larger carbohydrate pool as feedstock for isobutanol production, which help keep costs down and enables production facilities in regions of the world rich in biomass resources.

—Gevo COO and President Chris Ryan

The companies are evaluating future opportunities to partner on other US and international projects with a long-term goal of developing a licensable package for future interested third parties.

Beta Renewables is currently building a 60,000 metric ton (approximately 20 million gallon) per year bio-refinery in Crescentino, Italy that will produce cellulosic ethanol using its PROESA process as well as ‘green’ electricity. Construction has begun and plant startup is targeted for the end of 2012.

Gevo also reported that it is making progress with its Luverne, Minn. facility. The company has shown it can successfully ferment isobutanol in large (250,000 gallon) commercial fermenters, isolate the product and get it into tanks and railcars, said CEO Patrick Gruber.

The initial isobutanol we produced is what we’d expect from startup. We will use some of the isobutanol produced at Luverne to further shake down our finishing systems. We will also prepare some isobutanol for shipment to customers such as Sasol or others.

As previously described, we plan to be in the start-up/learning mode of operation most of 2012. We still have a lot of work to do: improve plant reliability, improve yields, improve throughput and improve quality. With any new technology there is a lot to learn. We have made great progress so far, and I expect our team to continue to deliver – knocking down issues as they arise.

—Pat Gruber

Separately, US District Judge Sue Robinson, who ruled that Gevo Inc. did not infringe on a patent held by Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC (earlier post), ordered (Case 1:11-cv-00054-SLR, Document 402) Gevo not to distribute any bio-based isobutanol produced at the Luverne facility from its recombinant yeast to any third-party for any use or purpose related to the automotive fuel blending market, pending appeal.



Will cellulosic isobutanol be the bio-fuel of the future?

It could be phased in by mixing with current fossil fuels to extend peak Oil by a few more decades.


Cellulosic butanol faces the sames issues as cellulosic ethanol : cost of enzymes and poor efficiency and slowness of enzymatic process on raw material from the field. I grow increasingly skeptical about cellulosic approaches. I think that thermal catalytic processes and bio-oil paths are more promizing like the one followed by CoolPlanet.


I favor thermo chemical, you can synthesize gasoline and diesel rather than alcohols. You can synthesize alcohols too if you want.

CoolPlanet has an interesting process, the interview said that they discovered their technique by a favorable "accident". They were not looking for that, but there it was.


isobutanol is too valuable to be used as a fuel

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