Intrexon’s Pilot Isobutanol Plant Online

Intrexon Corporation has announced that its pilot plant for the production of natural gas-to-liquids is online. Located in San Fransisco, the facility will be producing isobutanol, a drop-in fuel. Intrexon says that isobutanol has several advantages over other biofuels including cleaner burning combustion, less corrosion, more energy content and compatibility with existing pipelines.

INTREXON logo“Reaching operational status with our pilot plant is one of several important milestones we expect to reach this year as we continue to move closer to commercialization of our ground-breaking bioconversion platform for the production of isobutanol,” said Robert F. Walsh, Senior Vice President, Head of Intrexon’s Energy Sector and Industrial Products Division. “Data from the pilot plant will be utilized to further refine our commercial scale facility design.”

The company reports that it has been refining its process and improving the output of isobutanol from its engineered microbes including greater than 50 percent increase since its investor day last November. Intrexon also reports that with the pilot plant operational, they are closer to achieving the yields needed to move to commercial scale later this year and anticipate its first commercial plant will be online in 2018.

Gevo, Porta Building Isobutanol Plants in Argentina

Gevo logoRenewable energy technology company Gevo, Inc. has inked a deal with South American alcohol maker Porta Hnos S.A. to build several isobutanol plants in Argentina. This Gevo news release says they plan to use corn as a feedstock.

The first plant is to be wholly owned by Porta and is anticipated to begin producing isobutanol in 2017. The plant is expected to have a production capacity of up to five million gallons of isobutanol per year. Based on projected isobutanol pricing, Gevo estimates that it could generate approximately $1 million in annual revenues once the plant is operational, through royalties, sales and marketing fees, and other revenue streams such as yeast sales.

The agreements also contemplate Porta constructing at least three additional isobutanol plants for certain of their existing ethanol plant customers. For these projects, Gevo would be the direct licensor of its technology and the marketer for any isobutanol produced, and would expect to receive all royalties and sales and marketing fees generated from these projects. As one of the leading engineering, procurement and construction (“EPC”) service providers to the ethanol industry in Argentina, Porta would provide the EPC services for the projects. The production capacity of these additional plants is still to be determined.

“Porta is a unique partner for Gevo, as they are expected to be both a direct isobutanol licensee, as well as a partner in building out isobutanol plants for other plant owners. We are excited to leverage their EPC expertise and their local Argentinian presence to accelerate the adoption of our isobutanol technology throughout Argentina, and potentially elsewhere in South America. By partnering with Porta, this will dramatically decrease the investment in engineering and business development resources that Gevo would otherwise have to deploy to roll out our technology in the region. As a result, we anticipate any revenue derived from the Porta relationship to be high margin in nature,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We appreciate Porta’s desire to be the first direct licensee of Gevo’s isobutanol technology, as well as their agreement to be our EPC partner in Argentina. Consequently, we have agreed to waive an up-front license fee for the first plant that is to be wholly-owned by Porta,” added Gruber.

Gevo, ValvTect Bring Isobutanol to Marinas

gevoAfter September’s announcement that Gevo would be selling isoubutanol for boats on a lake in Missouri, Gevo now says it will collaborate with marine fuel additive supplier ValvTect to bring the renewable fuel to ValvTect branded marinas.

With a distribution network of over 700 marinas, believed to represent more than half of the marinas in the U.S., this collaboration provides Gevo with access to marinas that currently utilize ValvTect additives. In addition, this partnership is expected to open the door for Gevo and ValvTect to continue the expansion into additional marinas, which will look to provide high-performance gasoline blends comprising Gevo’s renewable isobutanol and ValvTect’s additives.

Gevo’s announcement comes after a series of tests were run using clear (ethanol-free) gasoline that was combined with 16 percent isobutanol and ValvTect’s marine fuel additive. The results proved the compatibility of the combination.

When used in marine fuel, the tests indicate that Gevo’s isobutanol provides higher energy content than ethanol blends, prevents moisture absorption and phase separation and reduces engine corrosion. In addition, Gevo’s isobutanol was recently endorsed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). ValvTect marine fuel additives are formulated to improve fuel quality, enhance engine performance and extend engine life.

“We are impressed with the quality of Gevo’s isobutanol fuel blend,” said Marvin Griffin, President of ValvTect. “When combined with ValvTect’s marine fuel additive, you’re looking at a final product that we believe is a superior fuel for boat engines. This is a winning scenario for all parties – ValvTect, Gevo, marinas and boating enthusiasts alike.”

Gevo Selling Isobutanol for Boats on Missouri Lake

gevoGevo is selling gasoline blended with isobutanol at a Missouri lake. This company news release says Harbor Marina Pumps at Lake Pomme de Terre is the first U.S. marina to sell gasoline blended with Gevo’s renewable fuel at the pump.

Lake Pomme de Terre is located in one of the premier recreational boating regions of the country. Gevo is now working to strategically roll out its marine fuel blend to marinas on other lakes including Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake, as the company ramps up isobutanol sales to marine, outdoor equipment and off-road vehicle markets…

In June, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) officially endorsed isobutanol as a drop-in fuel for marine and recreational boat engines. Gevo’s bio-based isobutanol helps meet renewable fuel and clean air standards, while solving concerns that many boaters have with ethanol-blended fuels, which can damage internal engine parts.

Harbor Marina owner Todd Spencer said he made the decision to offer isobutanol-blended gasoline to his recreational boating customers once he concluded that it would be a superior renewable fuel for their boats. Gevo’s isobutanol is moisture resistant, does not cause phase separation and helps reduce engine corrosion. It is a highly stable, high octane marine fuel.

“My fuel supplier introduced me to the idea of blending Gevo’s renewable isobutanol with the straight, ethanol-free gasoline my marina was previously offering,” Spencer said. “At Harbor Marina, we pride ourselves on providing the best in entertainment, food and beverages – and now we can add: the best-in-marine fuel.”

NMMA Endorses Gevo’s Isobutanol for Boats

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has endorsed Gevo, Inc. for the use of isobutanol by the marine industry. They say the renewable fuel is an effective, less damaging, more suitable biofuel than ethanol for powering various types of marine and recreational boat engines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 11.34.09 AMNMMA has worked with Gevo for five years, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Coast Guard and others on testing of various renewable fuels. During this testing, NMMA said the data supported isobutanol as the preferred renewable fuel for marine engines.

“Based on years of collaborative testing across the industry, biobutanol fuel blends, such as the ones provided by Gevo during our test program, are a safe and viable alternative to ethanol for use in recreational marine engines and boats up to 16.1 percent by volume,”said Jeff Wasil, engineering manager, Emissions Testing, Certification and Regulatory Development at Bombardier Recreational Products, an NMMA member.

According to NMMA, isobutanol fuel blends solve the concerns of boaters such as damaging engine parts. The studies found isobutanol provided a higher energy content, prevented moisture absorption and phase separation and reduced engine corrosion.

“We believe that the marine industry will be an important market for Gevo’s isobutanol. The technical properties of isobutanol shine in this application. We appreciate the efforts and the collaboration between Gevo and the NMMA throughout the testing program. We are pleased to have provided, from our plant in Luverne, the isobutanol needed to make the 16% isobutanol blended fuels that the studies required, for both on-water tests and in the laboratory,” added Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO. “We are delighted with the results of the testing and to have the endorsement of the NMMA. Isobutanol has proven to be an effective, highly compatible biofuel for the recreational boating industry.”

Lufthansa Testing Gevo’s Renewable Jet Fuel

Lufthansa1German airline Lufthansa says it will test advanced biofuel maker Gevo’s renewable jet fuel. This Gevo news release says the goal is to get the airline to approve of Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) for commercial aviation use.

“ATJ, like the Fischer-Tropsch pathway, has the potential to use lignocellulosic waste as feedstock, but promises to do so at less cost than Fischer-Tropsch,” said Alexander Zschocke, Lufthansa Group Senior Manager Aviation Biofuels. Lufthansa is a leader in the marketplace for alternative fuels.

“By using isobutanol as a renewable raw material for producing jet fuel, the resulting jet fuel has the mixtures of molecules typical of petro-based jet fuel making it directly compatible with engines and infrastructure. Renewable jet embodies the potential of cleaner, greener, and as we scale up, cost competitive drop-in fuels,” said Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s chief executive officer. “We greatly appreciate Lufthansa’s and the European Commission’s support of this effort. Through initiatives like this, the commercial airlines are seeking to prove out ATJ and move it towards commercialization. ATJ from Gevo’s isobutanol is a clean burning, homegrown, drop-in jet fuel, and we have a potential route to deliver aviation biofuels at scale and at competitive cost.”

The company says its patented ATJ fuel is truly a drop-in fuel, designed to be fully compliant with aviation fuel specifications and provide equal performance, including fit-for-purpose properties.

Butamax and Gevo Need to Resolve Issues

Yet another press release came out this week regarding the Butamax/Gevo legal battle over isobutanol technology patent infringement and frankly, we are sick of hearing about it.

This spat started over 16 months and dozens of press releases ago. There is no question that patents are important, but the fact is that both of these companies are holding up critical technology by arguing about it.

butamaxThe two have been filing dueling lawsuits over patents since January of 2011 and the trial date for the first lawsuit is not scheduled now until April 2013.

Granted, business is business, but if these two companies are truly interested in furthering the energy independence of this country by taking advanced biofuels to the next level, they would get together and collaborate to commercialize this fuel. Until then, hold the press releases unless there is a technical breakthrough or big news that will advance biofuels.  That would be interesting.

Butamax Granted Patent for Iso-Butanol

butamax Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, has been granted patent number 8,129,162 for production of iso-butanol from biological resources.

This latest patent was issued from a series of applications covering modified KARI enzymes that optimize production of biobutanol by Butamax’s proprietary microorganisms. These microorganisms are engineered with the isobutanol biosynthetic pathway invented by Butamax that includes five enzymatic steps that convert sugar to isobutanol. The KARI enzyme performs the second step of the pathway which is fundamental to achieving high biobutanol yield. This latest invention is essential to best cost of manufacture position.

Since 2003, the Butamax team has pioneered new technology innovations in order to offer the most cost-effective production of biobutanol for the transportation fuels market. The company will continue its commitment to innovation in the areas of biocatalyst, engineering design and end-use applications to deliver maximum value to licensees.

“With these new KARI enzymes, we have achieved a significant improvement in performance, which is necessary for low-cost commercial production of biobutanol,” said Paul Beckwith, Butamax CEO. “We are pleased that our research team continues to be recognized for their innovation in biobutanol technology. Their work has led to the only cost-effective retrofit option that enables existing ethanol manufacturers to produce drop-in biofuels.”

Butamax and Gevo Continue Battle

The battle between Butamax™ and Gevo over isobutanol technology continues.

Last week, Gevo received a landmark patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its GIFT(R) separation unit, a central part of the company’s fermentation technology for the production of isobutanol. The patent, “Recovery of Higher Alcohols From Dilute Aqueous Solutions,” addresses the separation technology used to produce propanols, butanols, pentanols, and hexanols, and also address how ethanol plants can be retrofitted to produce higher alcohols.

At the same time, Gevo also filed a lawsuit against Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels and DuPont charging that those companies infringe the newly issued patent. Gevo contends that Butamax and DuPont “perform the methods described” in the patent without Gevo’s authorization and should pay unspecified damages after a jury trial.

butamaxToday Butamax™ officials called the lawsuit allegations “unfounded.”

“Let us state emphatically, Butamax does not infringe the generic product separation technology claims in Gevo’s recent patent, which is already subject to a validity challenge by a Brazilian inventor,” declared Paul Beckwith, Butamax™ CEO. “While it does not surprise us that questions are being raised as to the validity of Gevo’s latest patent and whether Gevo provided sufficient disclosure in their patent application, Butamax does not use this technology.” Butamax has filed a motion to dismiss Gevo’s previous case against Butamax, and also will pursue early resolution of this latest suit.

Butamax officials claim that because vacuum flash fermentation technology was found to require high energy and water consumption to meet commercial productivity, Butamax developed fundamentally different product recovery systems. “The Butamax™ approach combines energy integration, reduced environmental impact and attractive production metrics. Butamax™ technology is covered by the 7,993,889 patent which is the subject of the Butamax™ lawsuit against Gevo for their unlawful infringement. This patent has significant priority over all of Gevo’s patent filings.”

The battle between the two companies goes back over a year ago to when Butamax was first awarded its patent in December 2010 and filed suit for infringement against Gevo in January 2011.

Gevo & Mustang Engineering to Produce BioJet Fuel

Gevo has signed an engineering and consulting agreement with Mustang Engineering LP (Mustang) to convert Gevo’s renewable isobutanol to biojet fuel. The first step will be to focus on the downstream processing of isobutanol to kerosene (jet fuel) and from there to test the fuel in jet engines as well as in commercial planes.

“Our work with Mustang is another important step in the development of our biojet fuel business and Mustang is an ideal partner to advance our efforts in this important market,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo.”Their refining and chemicals industries engineering and project management expertise will help us bring an integrated, turnkey solution to the refining industry.”

Gevo has also disclosed that its “fit for purpose” testing at the Air Force Research Laboratory continues and they anticipate releasing a final report in June. Once this “fit to purpose” testing has been completed successfully Gevo will begin jet engine testing with various engine manufacturers.

“The advent of the jet fuel carbon tax on international flights landing in the European Union is motivating the airline industry and fuel suppliers to seek cost-effective, renewable alternatives to petroleum jet fuel,” said Scott Baker, executive vice president of Mustang’s Process Plants and Industrial business unit. “Mustang is excited about this opportunity to further support Gevo in the development of the next generation of alternative fuels. The processing steps required to make this bio-jet fuel lend themselves well to integration into refineries and petrochemical facilities.”