Gevo announces "breakthrough development" of renewable isoprene
US-based advanced renewable fuel and biochemical manufacturer and platform technology developer Gevo, Inc. has announced that it has developed a proprietary, "breakthrough" catalytic process that transforms low-cost commercially available renewable alcohols into renewable isoprene. Furthermore, that it would be expected to compete head-to-head on price with natural and petroleum-based chemical equivalents while reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Isoprene is predominantly used in the production of synthetic-based rubber. The market for isoprene is, according to Gevo, estimated to be worth approximately US$4 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent or greater driven by growth in the automotive sector.
Renewable, low-carbon, low-cost isoprene has been pursued by a lot of companies over the years without commercial success. Fermentation processes were always deemed to be too expensive to make isoprene directly, said Dr Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo.
Gevo recently developed a chemical-based catalytic process to convert low-value “fusel oils,” a mixture of alcohols that are byproducts from fermentation processes such as ethanol production, into renewable isoprene. Fusel oils from the ethanol industry alone equate to about 2.5 million tonnes of potential bio-based waste feedstock.
As it turns out, our catalytic chemistry team and engineers figured out how to make low-cost, renewable isoprene suitable for the market using a chemical catalyst that we apply to fusel oils. Our team was able to translate what we learned while developing renewable, sustainable jet fuel and isooctane, to enable other viable alcoholic feedstocks. I give credit to our catalytic chemistry team, led by Jonathan Smith, for this breakthrough, Dr Gruber said.
Gevo expects to pursue a licensing strategy with this technology. Potential licensees could be ethanol producers that want to improve the profitability of their facilities, chemical plants that simply want cost competitive low-carbon isoprene or standalone businesses.
This is the first time in my 30 years in this industry where I have seen what I believe to be a viable route to fully renewable, low-cost isoprene. I look forward to seeing this one get commercially developed. It looks as if this technology could address a large current unmet need in the marketplace and make money, ended Dr Patrick Gruber.