Gevo Plans $17 Million for Retrofit of Ethanol Plant

Englewood, Colo.-based Gevo expects to spend about $17 million to retrofit a recently acquired 22-million-gallon ethanol plant in Minnesota, according to Techrockies.com. Gevo plans to start commercial production of isobutanol in 2012, at the former Agri-Energy plant. Gevo expects to produce about 500 million gallons of isobutanol in 2014. The company is backed by Khosla Ventures and Virgin Fuels.

(http://www.techrockies.com/…)

And here is what GEVO has to say about its process and product (@ www.gevo.com):
Gevo uses the tools of biotechnology and its process engineering expertise to research and develop a unique route to isobutanol, a second generation biofuel. Starting with the strategic objective of developing technology that fits into existing ethanol production capacity with a minimum of process change and capital expense, Gevo provides a complete solution package including a fermentative organism and an isobutanol separations unit, as well as related technology transfer services. Gevo and ICM, its engineering partner, have designed the system to take advantage of the unique properties of isobutanol to deliver a custom solution for each ethanol facility. Gevo retrofits existing ethanol plants with its proprietary technology and techniques to make isobutanol for use as biofuel or other renewable chemicals.

GIFT(TM): Combining the Best of Biotechnology and Process Engineering
Every successful industrial biotechnology solution begins with the fermentation organism, or biocatalyst. Gevo used synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to develop its biocatalyst to make isobutanol at high concentrations and without the typical expression co-products. Economic yield from carbohydrates and robust operations are the hallmark of all successful industrial biotechnology projects. Our current generation biocatalyst operates on fermentable sugars from grain crops, sugar cane and sugar beets. Future generation biocatalysts are in development for mixed sugars from biomass so when the conversion technology is commercially available, we will be able to produce cellulosic butanol.

Our Take:
We call this an interesting development. Mr. Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has a track record of success being the first one into the pool with new technologies. What we can say is that this process continues to consume farm products to make energy and chemicals, replacing foreign and finite petroleum source material with renewable homegrown feedstock. The eventual move to biomass fits in well with the stated goals of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and it does so in a way that will develop new revenue streams for farmers and rural areas.
Our only caveat is to continue to broaden America’s energy thinking–we need to get away from the model of one single source for energy, and develop a mix that plays to the strengths of each region and enhances every corner of America’s ability to produce at least some of its energy for itself.
Just like we love California strawberries, people should love midwestern ethanol for its value as part of the solution for energy independence and cleaner air. It remains to be seen whether isobutanol can become part of that solution as well. If anyone can do it, Vinod Khosla can.

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