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Alcohol to jet fuel: one step closer after Terrabon begins R&D program

| July 26, 2011

In Texas, Terrabon announced today that it has been awarded a $9.6 million, 18-month contract by Logos Technologies to design a more economical and renewable jet fuel production solution for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Started in April of 2011, a customized production process for DARPA will be engineered, constructed and operated at Terrabon’s Bryan, TX demonstration facility in an effort to yield 6,000 liters of jet fuel through the use of the company’s advanced bio-refining technology MixAlco, in preparation for commercialization of this technology.

“An important focus of this DARPA effort is to produce a sustainable, cost-effective, non-fossil-fuel-based solution to support the military’s jet fuel needs. We thoroughly reviewed many potential processes and solutions for this initiative, and came to the conclusion that this goal can best be achieved with help of Terrabon and their mixed alcohol oligomerization pathway, MixAlco,” said Dr. Greg Poe, CEO, Logos Technologies.

MixAlco converts low-cost, readily available, non-food, non-sterile biomass into valuable chemicals such as acetic acid, ketones and alcohols that can be processed into renewable fuels.

“Our country continues to be in need of finding alternative energy solutions to one day achieve independence from foreign resources. Therefore, this project is a major milestone along that journey for DARPA, Logos and Terrabon, and further validates the market demand for companies like ours to assist the government in the creation of innovative and cost-effective biofuel technologies to produce green jet fuel and other hydrocarbons,” said Gary Luce, CEO, of Terrabon.

The announcement marks another step towards the goal of developing and approving sustainable alcohol-to-jet renewable aviation fuels by 2013.

At the Paris Air Show last month, LanzaTech announced that it had also been awarded DARPA funds to perform research focused on novel, low-cost routes to production of jet fuel from carbon monoxide sources. The LanzaTech project will focus on reducing the cost of alcohol intermediates, which will be thermochemcally converted to JP-8 renewable jet fuel.

At the time, LanzaTech CEO Dr. Jennifer Holmgren said that the economics of alcohol-to-jet fuel are driven by the cost of alcohol intermediates – LanzaTech’s technology, which produces alcohols by gas fermentation of CO-rich feedstocks such as industrial off-gases, has the potential to be an economically and environmentally sound approach to alternative aviation fuels.

Also at the Air Show, Gevo presented test results conducted by SRI International and the Air Force Research Lab to the alcohol jet review (ATJ) committee of ASTM. The next step in the ATJ specification will be work with engine manufacturers to complete commercial engine testing.

Full certification of ATJ is expected in 2013, by which time Gevo expects to have 110 million gallons of isobutanol capacity for use in the jet fuel and chemical markets. United Airlines and Gevo have previously signed a non-binding offtake agreement from ORD, starting in 2013.

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