Setting the record straight: Gevo and Butamax

May 13, 2013 |

gevovsbutamaxBiofuels’s Montagues and Capulets were at it again last week — with a flurry of press releases about court decisions and commercial timelines regarding their respective isbutanol technologies.

At the heart of it — a dispute over the significance of last week’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Gevo against Butamax for patent infringement.

Here’s the bottom line. You can safely ignore the whole thing.

The suit was “dismissed without prejudice”, meaning that Gevo is free to re-file at a later date, which Gevo says it intends to do as soon as Butamax gets a plant running and Gevo can show damages. Doesn’t mean that Gevo will win. As Pork explained in Gone with the ind, “Askin’ ain’t gettin’. ”

Updated Butamax path to commercialization

As far as Butamax’ path to commercialization, it remains robust.

Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith notes that “We are on plan regarding our commercialization and we expect to complete phase one of the retrofit this year.”

Phase one involves the installation of commercial equipment in existing ethanol plants.  This equipment is part of a butanol retrofit and it also allows the plant to increase its revenue before butanol production.

In 2013: expect, as Beckwith predicts, the first installation to demonstrate the technology.

In 2014: expect Phase 1 equipment to be available for licensing to the Early adopters Group (beyond the first plant). As DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman noted last week in a meeting with analysts, “We have strong interest and early adoption from a group of corn ethanol producers who now produce about 1 billion annual gallons of first generation ethanol. They want to be among the first to convert their plans to biobutanol and we expect the first phase of implementation to be begin in 2014.

In 2015: expect the complete Butamax equipment to be fully available for licensing. As DuPont Chief Innovation Officer Tom Connelley noted to analysts: “We would expect to start the first conversion in 2015 and the actual installed equipment has to do with some separation equipment, has to do with changes to fermentation and clearly the separation of ethanol is a little bit different and the extraction of ethanol so there are some changes to the back end from a distillation perspective.”

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