Gevo provides update of Luverne operations

By Erin Voegele | May 08, 2013

Gevo Inc. provided updated information on it Luverne, Minn., plant and patent dispute with Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC as part of its recent first quarter 2013 financial announcement.

During a call to discuss the first quarter release, Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber elaborated on work that has been ongoing at the Luverne plant. He explained that following commissioning of the facility in mid-2012, the fermentation process experienced contamination from outside organisms. While Gevo was able to overcome those infections, the company also identified a need to address equipment improvements. “That is done best without the plant fully running,” Gruber said, noting that contamination in new plants is completely normal and expected.

Gruber stressed that the facility was never shuttered. Rather the plant is still in the commissioning process.

According to Gruber, Gevo’s fermentation bugs were shown to perform reasonably well last year, even though the fermentation process conditions were suboptimal. Over the past several months, he said, the company has worked to improve these conditions in a way that favors Gevo’s yeast and hinders the growth of infecting microorganisms.

To help eliminate infections and operate the plant more simply, Gruber said the company has made several equipment changes. For example, he said some of the changes involve the use of equipment that can be cleaned, sanitized and sterilized more easily. In addition, equipment improvements were also made to let the facility run in single-train mode, which allows Gevo to isolate each of the plant’s fermenters.

The call also addressed the legal dispute between Gevo and Butamax. Gruber stressed that Butamax has admitted that Gevo doesn’t infringe upon its ‘188 and ‘189 patents, and the Delaware court has since entered a final judgment of non-infringement in Gevo’s favor.

On the same day that the Gevo announced its financial results, the company also announced that it has been issued a new patent, covering the foundational methods for low-cost isobutnaol production at commercially relevant titer, productivity and yields.

Regarding financial results for the quarter, Gevo reported revenues of $3.5 million, compared to $14.9 million during the same period of last year. The decrease in revenue is attributed the halt of ethanol production at the Luverne facility in May 2012. The net loss for the quarter was $18.4 million, compared to $19.3 million during the first quarter of 2012.