Gevo, National Labs Collaborate to Enhance Ethanol-to-Olefins Process
Gevo Inc will be partnering with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on a project to fine-tune the composition of the catalyst used in Gevo’s proprietary ethanol-to-olefins (ETO) process.
ChemCatBio, a consortium within the US Department of Energy, awarded funding to the national labs in support of the project.
Gevo is developing its ETO technology, a process using ethanol as a feedstock for the production of hydrocarbons, renewable hydrogen, and other chemical intermediates. The process produces tailored mixes of isobutylene, propylene, hydrogen and acetone, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other chemical products and longer chain alcohols.
At this time, Gevo’s ETO technology has only been operated at a laboratory scale. If successfully scaled-up to commercial level, however, this technology may provide the estimated 25BGPY global ethanol industry a broader set of end-product market and margin opportunities.
In addition, Gevo’s catalyst is capable of converting complex mixtures of other bio-based alcohols, acids and other oxygenates to primarily propylene or isobutylene along with significant levels of renewable hydrogen. Suitable feedstocks could include difficult to process side streams from fermentation plants, biomass gasification plants, syngas plants, municipal or industrial waste processing plants, or crude petro-based chemical streams.
Gevo believes this catalytic technology could provide a cost-competitive option for industrial plants to upgrade lower value products and side streams, and facilitate entry into markets actively pursuing more sustainable options. These markets could include renewable fuels and plastics, renewable hydrogen and renewable downstream chemicals based on propylene or butylenes.
“Armed with a detailed knowledge of the “working” catalyst structure we can design and synthesize catalyst composition that have dramatically improved stability and lifetime in Gevo’s ETO process,” said Dr Susan Habas, a principal investigator in the ChemCatBio Consortium.
“Converting alcohols using catalytic chemistry has been key to our successes with jet fuel and isooctane. This project with the Department of Energy’s national labs is expected to help further optimize these catalysts, as well as expand the feedstock base beyond ethanol, to include a variety of water-based, organic chemical streams produced in a variety of industries. Our interest is in developing the catalysts and processes to become commercially ready, so we can license them,” said Dr Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO.
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