National Labs to collaborate with Gevo to optimise ethanol-to-olefins performance
US-based advanced renewable fuel and biochemical platform technology company, Gevo, Inc., has announced that it will be partnering with the US Department of Energy's (DOE) national labs on a project to fine-tune the composition of the catalyst used in its proprietary ethanol-to-olefins (ETO) process.
According to a statement, Gevo will be partnering with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in order to improve performance and accelerate scale-up efforts of its proprietary ethanol-to-olefins (ETO) process.
Currently operated at laboratory-scale, a key feature of the ETO technology is a proprietary mixed metal oxide catalyst that produces polymer-grade propylene or high purity isobutylene, along with hydrogen in high yields in a single processing step from conventional fuel grade specification ethanol. The process produces tailored mixes of isobutylene, propylene, hydrogen and acetone for use as standalone molecules or as feedstock to produce other biochemcials or biofuels.
In addition, the company says that its 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.
ChemCatBio, a research and development (R&D) consortium within the US Department of Energy (DOE) dedicated to identifying and overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes has awarded funding to the national labs in support of the project.
We are excited to begin this collaboration with Gevo and believe that the state-of-the-art capabilities and expertise available through the Advanced Catalyst Synthesis and Characterization (ACSC) project within the ChemCatBio Consortium will enable us to gain a fundamental understanding of critical catalyst features that can change over time and impact the performance of Gevo’s ETO catalysts. 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.
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.
Converting alcohols using catalytic chemistry has been key to our successes with jet fuel and isooctane. We have made good progress in developing the catalysts to convert ethanol to olefins and hydrogen. 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.