Gevo, Inc., the only commercial producer of renewable isobutanol, reported that in December 2014, it produced more than 50,000 gallons (~190,000 liters) of isobutanol through the Side-by-Side operational mode (SBS) of its plant in Luverne, MN, meeting the lower end of the company’s target.
In June 2014, Gevo commenced the co-production of isobutanol and ethanol at Luverne, with one fermenter dedicated to isobutanol production and three fermenters dedicated to ethanol production. Gevo had articulated a goal of reaching isobutanol production levels of 50-100 thousand gallons per month by the end of 2014.
Gevo has implemented a second-generation yeast isobutanol biocatalyst at Luverne that has significantly improved plant operability. The isobutanol fermentation rate has increased by approximately 20% versus the best-performing batch using the first-generation yeast.
The new yeast can produce in operating conditions that enable further mitigation of potential infections, as well as the improved management of the iDGs animal feed co-product.
This second-generation yeast platform, which is a product of a new yeast modification capability developed by Gevo, speeds up the development and implementation of new traits in Gevo’s yeast through high-speed combinatorial techniques.
We are very pleased to have achieved our milestone of producing over 50 thousand gallons of isobutanol in a month, while continuing the co-production of ethanol. Since announcing in March 2014 that we would be switching Luverne over to SBS, we have consistently met our operational targets. We are also extremely excited to have implemented our new yeast biocatalyst at Luverne. We believe that this yeast platform will enable even greater progress of our commercial isobutanol production.
The anticipated benefits of switching Luverne to SBS have borne out. Producing alcohol in all four fermenters improves the operating environment for the optimization of our isobutanol production by creating a continuous and stable mash flow and a more consistent recycle of water through the plant. SBS has also dramatically improved the cash flow profile of the plant. In fact, we estimate that the plant operated at roughly an EBITDA breakeven level in November. Overall, we believe that we have made tremendous progress in proving out our isobutanol technology for potential licensees.—Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO
Gevo’s underlying technology uses a combination of synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering to focus primarily on the production and sale of isobutanol, as well as related products from renewable feedstocks. Gevo’s strategy is to commercialize biobased 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 first fermentation plant in Luverne, MN. Gevo has also developed technology to produce hydrocarbon products from renewable alcohols. Gevo currently operates its first biorefinery in Silsbee, TX, in collaboration with South Hampton Resources Inc., to produce renewable jet fuel, octane, and ingredients for plastics such as polyester.
Gevo partners include The Coca-Cola Company, Toray Industries Inc., Total SA and LANXESS, Inc., an affiliate of LANXESS Corporation.