Perspectives: Making it Work

Bio-based Isobutanol Beckons

Ethanol makers can gain particular advantages from coproduction.

By Chris Ryan, Gevo, Inc
Apr 29, 2016

As the ethanol industry evolves, more plants are seeking ways to increase their product slate and margin. One option is manufacture of isobutanol and its derivatives including octane, jet fuel blendstock and other drop-in hydrocarbons. Commercial production of bio-based isobutanol, alongside ethanol, has taken place since 2014 at Gevo’s Luverne, Minn., facility (Figure 1). The side-by-side operation there shares various streams between the two production trains to minimize capital and operating cost. The facility currently is being upgraded to enable production of 1.5 million gal/y of isobutanol and 15 million gal/y of ethanol. We have restarted isobutanol production with an expected output of 750,000 to 1 million gallons of isobutanol in 2016. Once the process is fully optimized at this scale, isobutanol should yield EBITDA profit margins of approximately $0.50 to $1.00 per gallon, providing a compelling return on capital to the producer.

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