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Gevo releases operational update, achieves EPA pathway approval

By Erin Voegele | January 10, 2017

On Jan. 9, Gevo Inc. published an update describing fourth quarter operations at its Luverne, Minnesota, biorefinery. The U.S. EPA also recently released a notice approving a fuel pathway for the plant regarding the production of butanol from corn and sorghum.

In its update, Gevo indicated the Luverne plant produced approximately 190,000 gallons of isobutanol during the final three months of 2016, achieving the highest quarterly production level in the company’s history. Based on results measured across the final six weeks of the quarter, Gevo said it demonstrated an isobutanol production capacity of approximately 1.5 million gallons per year. For the full year 2016, isobutanol production reached approximately 440,000 gallons.

According to Gevo, it also produced a record number of batches during the quarter since switching the plant to the side-by-side model of production, achieving its targeted back-to-back five-day turnaround batch times over much of the three-month period. In addition to butanol, 2.8 million gallons of ethanol was produced during the fourth quarter.

Gevo also noted it surpassed production cost targets for butanol and demonstrated variable costs of production of less than the targeted $3:00-3:50 per gallon.

In its statement, Gevo announced the Luverne plant was taken offline on Dec. 21 to perform unplanned necessary repairs and maintenance on certain components of the plant’s regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO). As of Jan. 9, the plant remained offline, as the company said it decided to make further upgrades to the RTO, which was installed approximately 10 years ago. The facility is expected to be back online within the next two weeks.

Also in early January, the EPA posted a notice to its website announcing the agency has approved a fuel pathway filed by Gevo for the production of butanol from corn starch and grain sorghum. The pathway approval applies to both D5 advanced biofuel and D6 renewable fuel renewable identification numbers (RINs).

Within the approval, the EPA states that Gevo’s butanol produced from corn starch feedstocks appears to already qualify under an existing pathway for the production of D6 RINs, assuming the company satisfies the pathway specifications and other requirements specified in the Clean Air Act and regulations. The EPA also said it has determined that butanol produced by the Luverne facility from grain sorghum feedstock can also qualify for D-code 6 RINs, and butanol produced by the Luverne facility from corn starch and grain sorghum feedstock can qualify for D-code 5 RINs if the fuel meets the conditions and certain associated regulatory provisions.

Documents published by the EPA notes corn starch butanol produced at the Luverne plant achieves a 50.3 percent lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction when compared to baseline gasoline, while grain sorghum butanol produced at the plant achieves a 54.6 percent lifecycle GHG reduction when compared to baseline gasoline.

A full copy of the pathway approval can be downloaded from the EPA’s website.