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Biobutanol to be produced at retrofitted ethanol plant

By Scott Jenkins |

The first commercial-scale biobutanol plant using the Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT) process is set to come online in mid-2012 at the former site of an ethanol facility in Minnesota. In late January, Gevo (Englewood, Colo.; www.gevo.com) was awarded a U.S. patent for the GIFT separation technology, a key component of the process that allows the separation of C3–C6 alcohols from the fermentation broth. “The challenge for biobutanol is that, above certain concentrations, the compound is toxic to microorganisms,” explains Chris Ryan, Gevo’s president and chief operating officer. “We’ve found a way to continuously remove the isobutanol as it is produced by the yeast, so the concentrations in the fermentation broth remain low.” The Gevo process takes advantage of the lower-boiling azeotrope formed by butanol and water. The azeotrope is continually evaporated from the fermentation broth and condensed. The isobutanol then phase-separates from water. At the front end of the process, Gevo has genetically modified a commercial yeast strain previously used for ethanol production so that it now produces high levels of isobutanol from carbohydrates without large amounts of byproducts. Bio-based…
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