Total Cray Valley, Gevo scale up isoamylene from fusel oil

By Total Cray Valley | May 05, 2021

Total Cray Valley and Gevo Inc. announced on May 3 the successful completion of Phase 1 of their joint development agreement (JDA) to upgrade fusel oils into renewable isoamylene. The companies are now seeking to advance to Phase 2 of the JDA, which will allow for scale-up of Gevo’s technology at a demonstration scale.

Fusel oils, made during the production of ethanol, equate to approximately 1 million tons of bio-based feedstock. The JDA, signed in 2020, is based on Gevo’s chemical-based catalytic processes that selectively convert low-value fusel oils, mixtures of alcohols that are byproducts from fermentation processes, such as ethanol or isobutanol production, into higher-value renewable chemicals such as isoprenes, ketones, aldehydes or olefins, in this case isoamylenes.

Isoamylene is used in a diverse set of applications, including resins, pesticides, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceuticals, healthcare products, adhesives, antioxidants and UV stabilizers. Cray Valley uses isoamylene as a raw material in resin manufacturing.

“We were very satisfied with the results of pilot tests during Phase 1. Gevo’s technology was found to be robust and flexible, and the initial economic assessment shows potential for a profitable business,” said Valérie Goff, senior vice president polymers at Total. “This JDA between Total Cray Valley and Gevo is an excellent example of collaboration to develop the materials of the future produced from bio-based feedstock, and it meets a strong demand from our customers.”

“The team has achieved an important milestone with the success of Phase 1 to deliver plant-based, low-carbon solutions to our partner, Total Cray Valley. We look forward to continuing our track record of success at the demonstration scale,” stated Paul Bloom, chief technology and innovation officer at Gevo. Bloom continued, “This is a new way to think about decarbonization and biogenic carbon sequestration. Now this byproduct from ethanol, instead of being burned, can be converted into usable products that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while delivering drop-in performance in final products on the market today. For every pound of bio-based isoamylene made and used in durable products like resins, it is essentially the equivalent of sequestering 2.5 pounds of biogenic CO2 from the atmosphere, compared to that carbon being combusted. Another example of how Gevo is advancing our focus to net zero and beyond.”

The companies are currently exploring options for scale-up and commercialization of the technology, which would provide the U.S. market with a renewable source of isoamylenes, a world first.