Butamax signs 4 more ethanol producers to early adopters group

By Holly Jessen | June 18, 2012

Four more ethanol producers have joined the Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC early adopters group (EAG)—bringing the total number of ethanol plants that have indicated interest in the company’s biobutanol technology to seven. “We continue to see strong interest from high-quality ethanol producers who are excited by the opportunity to become producers of biobutanol as a next-generation biofuel,” Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith said in a prepared statement. “With the depth of industry expertise brought by the EAG members, we are well-positioned for the rapid scale-up of biobutanol production for the transportation sector.”

The EAG is a consortium of ethanol producers “interested in the potential biobutanol offers for long-term, sustainable biofuel production,” Butamax said in a June 18 press release. All seven plants are Fagen/ICM-designed facilities constructed by Fagen Inc., including Platinum Ethanol, a Fagen-owned facility. Butamax, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, announced a collaboration with Fagen in mid-April. 

“Biobutanol is an exciting next step in the evolution of biofuels and presents a significant opportunity for companies such as ours to produce and market a higher-value product and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ron Fagen, chairman of Fagen Inc.

The four new plants announced June 18 include:

* Platinum Ethanol LLC, a 110 MMgy ethanol plant located in Arthur, Iowa

* Little Sioux Corn Processors LP, a 100 MMgy plant located in Marcus, Iowa

* Granite Falls Energy LLC, a 60 MMgy plant in Granite Falls, Minn.

* Siouxland Ethanol LLC, a 50 MMgy plant in Jackson, Neb.

The three plants that were previously announced include:

* Highwater Ethanol LLC, a nearly 60 MMgy plant in Lamberton, Minn.

* Lincolnway Energy LLC, a 55 MMgy plant in Nevada, Iowa

* Corn LP, a 60 MMgy plant in Goldfield, Iowa.

So far, no retrofit schedules have been announced. Highwater Ethanol, the first to join the EAG in December 2011, is in an ongoing discussion with Butamax about the possibility of converting to biobutanol production, CEO Brian Kletscher said in his 2011 annual report. The company is currently in the process of reviewing the Butamax process and its economic viability. “We expect the definitive agreement review will take at least 9 months,” he said.

Butamax and another butanol developer, Colorado-based Gevo Inc., are locked in a legal battle over intellectual property rights for butanol technology. Butamax’s announcement that it was adding four plants to its early adopters list came less than a week after a judge ruled in U.S. Federal District Court in the District of Delaware that Gevo is only allowed to sell bio-based isobutanol produced at its Luverne, Minn., facility, the former Agri-Energy LLC ethanol plant, to Sasol for chemical applications and the U.S. Air Force for jet fuel testing applications. 

Gevo is nearly finished retrofitting the facility and plans to produce butanol there soon. The company also has a joint venture to retrofit Redfield Energy LLC, a 50 MMgy ethanol plant in Redfield, S.D. Gevo pointed out that although Butamax had requested that the court shut down Gevo’s operations until the patent lawsuit is settled, the court elected instead to “maintain the status quo.”