At the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology taking place in Montreal, Canada, Praj Industries Ltd (Praj) and Gevo, Inc. (Gevo) unveiled a new commercial opportunity in renewable bioproducts, jointly announcing that Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology will now be available for licensing to processors of sugar cane juice and molasses. This follows on the back of Praj’s development work, adapting Gevo’s technology to sugar cane and molasses feedstocks.
A Joint Development Agreement and a Development License Agreement were entered into between Praj and Gevo in November 2015. The goal of these agreements was for Praj to adapt Gevo’s isobutanol technology to using non-corn based sugars and lignocellulose feedstocks. The process technology development was performed at Matrix, Praj’s R&D center located in Pune, India.
In the first phase of development, Praj worked with Gevo’s technology using sugar cane and molasses feedstocks, undertaking test-runs in order to develop a process design package that will now be offered for commercialization to cane juice and molasses-based ethanol plants, as licensees of Gevo’s isobutanol technology. Licensing is expected to be focused on Praj plants located in India, South America and South East Asia, with initial capacity targeted to come on-line in the 2019/2020 timeframe.
“We are pleased with the work that Praj has done in adapting our technology using cane juice and molasses as feedstocks. Praj is a great partner who shares our vision of low carbon fuels made from sugars in high yields. Praj has a massive footprint across the world. We look forward to working with Praj to license the technology out, leveraging their access and capabilities,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo.
Pramod Chaudhari, Executive Chairman, Praj, added, “We are excited to offer this technology to our global customers who stand to benefit from an additional revenue stream from isobutanol. Praj has worked on 750 projects for ethanol plants across 75 countries. This isobutanol platform can be offered as ‘bolt-on’ to an existing ethanol plant or as a greenfield plant Isobutanol technology is the latest addition to Praj’s diverse product portfolio and reinforces our organization’s leadership in the bioenergy space.”
Isobutanol has several direct applications as a gasoline blendstock or as a specialty chemical solvent, or it can be used as an intermediate which can be further converted into other chemical products or hydrocarbons such as Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) and isooctane.
In comparison to other renewable jet fuels, Gevo’s ATJ has the potential to offer the optimal solution in terms of operating cost, capital cost, feedstock availability, and scalability. In addition to being a lower carbon alternative, ATJ also offers performance advantages such as lower particulates, low sulfur content and a lower freezing point. Alaska Airlines, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy have all flown flights using Gevo’s ATJ, derived from isobutanol using corn and cellulosic materials as feedstocks.
Isooctane and renewable gasoline made from cane juice and molasses based isobutanol are expected to be very low in carbon content, offering new approaches to markets where low carbon fuels are valued, such as California and other geographies.
Gevo is expected to be the primary off-taker, marketer and initial distributor for isobutanol produced from the plants built by Praj that use Gevo’s isobutanol technology.
In the next phase of commercialization, Praj is working to adapt Gevo’s technology to Praj’s 2nd Generation bio-refineries enabling the production of isobutanol from lignocellulosic biomass.