Gevo partners with petrochem firm to build demo biorefinery

| July 26, 2011

Gevo Inc. has partnered with a Texas-based petrochemical company to build a demonstration hydrocarbon processing plant in Silsbee, Texas. South Hampton Resources, a subsidiary of Arabian American Development Co., will build and operate the 10,000 gallon a month facility, which, upon completion before the end of this year, according to Gevo, will produce a number of products including biojet fuel, isooctane for gasoline, isooctane and paraxylene for plyethylene terphthalate (PET). Jack Huttner, executive vice president for commercial and public affairs for Gevo told Biorefining Magazine that “South Hampton has the engineering know-how and the kind of refining assets that fit Gevo’s needs.”

Those assets include more than 40 years of experience within the petrochemical industry testing and producing specific products for “almost every major oil company,” according to South Hampton Resources. The company also touts its wide array of equipment, and ready source of hydrogen that helps the company in its toll processing and product development work.

According to Huttner, one of the main reasons for signing with South Hampton is directly related to its toll processing services, “which is a good way for us to work and enter the market,” he said. South Hampton’s toll processing service allows the customer to keep any product made at the Silsbee facility in dedicated storage tanks without the need to immediately pick up any product upon completion. The company also employs a Statistical Process Control program that monitors the work throughout the entire process.

Through the agreement, South Hampton will provide the final design and engineering of the demonstration facility, and Gevo will retain any intellectual property that results from any work on the facility, including the designs and systems developed at the pilot facility and any future commercial-scale plants.

Christopher Ryan, president and chief operating officer of Gevo, said Gevo has “a growing list of potential customers and end-users interested in renewable hydrocarbons for a variety of market applications, from jet fuel to renewable PET.” The new plant will not only allow Gevo to provide early adopters with a product for testing, sample making or even selling, but it will also give the Colorado-based company “critical technical and market insights.”

While Gevo has been active in the ethanol industry, partnering with or purchasing ethanol facilities for retrofits to producing isobutanol, Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, noted that the demonstration facility helps accomplish another company goal. The plant allows Gevo to complete the value chain, he said, “from isobutanol to renewable hydrocarbon fuels and chemical intermediates, which is one of our key strategic objectives.”

The demonstration facility will also show Gevo’s intentions to showcase a fully integrated biorefinery, one that starts with renewable carbohydrates and goes all the way to fungible hydrocarbon material that can be used in the refining and petrochemical industries.