Gevo, LG Chem on ethanol-based propylene partnership

Sugar-based chemicals and fuels technology developer Gevo recentlyannounceda joint development agreement with chemicals company LG Chem (based in South Korea) for the development of bio-propylene using Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology. Gevo’s ETO technology uses low-carbon ethanol to produce renewable olefins, such as bio-propylene, which can be used for sustainable chemicals and fuels, including sustainable aviation fuel. The developed bio-based propylene is expected to deliver the same performance as traditional petroleum-based products. The joint development agreement between Gevo and LG Chem will accelerate the pilot research, technical scale-up, and commercialization of bio-propylene.

现在真正的分析,如何long do you think this partnership will result in real commercial volumes? Gevo and LG Chem did not elaborate on milestone plans for their bio-propylene project. There is currently no known commercial production of sugar-based propylene, although announced development partnerships on propylene production using ethanol feedstock have increased in the past 1-2 years. Most renewable-based propylene volumes currently in the market are based on mass balance production.

There is certainly plenty of fermentation-derived ethanol capacity available worldwide that can be used to produce olefins. Still, there are several challenges in going through this route compared to fossil-based olefins production, namely, low yield, catalyst deactivation over time, energy consumption, feedstock variability, cost, and scale-up.

Historically, there have not been a lot of development partnerships announced when it comes to Gevo’s ETO technology, which reportedly can produce mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen. In 2016, Gevo announced a collaboration with Clariant to develop catalysts for Gevo’s ETO process. Underpinning the ETO technology is Gevo’s patent of proprietary mixed-metal oxide catalysts that can produce polymer-grade propylene or high-purity isobutylene, along with hydrogen, in high yields in a single process step from conventional fuel-grade ethanol. In 2017, Gevo also partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to fine-tune the composition of the catalyst used in Gevo’s ETO process.

As far as what I know (and probably there’s a lot I don’t know), Gevo’s ETO process has never been demonstrated outside a laboratory scale output. By the way, LG Chem is a major olefins producer, and I’m sure has plenty of R&D expertise to share.

PS. The photo below was part of Gevo’s 2016 presentation (one of the many in my archives).



Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for almost 20 years and spread her beat to biofuels and green chemistry.



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