Praj Industries, Gevo joint development agreement enters commercialisation phase

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 09, 2018

Pramod Chaudhari, Executive Chairman, Praj Industries

Pact facilitates production of eco-friendly isobutanol

Indian companies involved in processing molasses and sugar cane feedstock to make ethanol will soon have an eco-friendly technology that will help produce isobutanol, which has multiple uses in making bio-products.

Making this possible is a joint technology development between Praj Industries, Pune, and Gevo, a renewable technology and next-generation biofuels major.

Praj has about 300 customers who have been using its process to make ethanol from molasses.

Now, these companies will have an option to make isobutanol, too, with the latest technology, said Pramod Chaudhari, Executive Chairman, Praj Industries.

The Pune firm had obtained Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology in 2015, which uses corn starch sugars. With efforts at its R&D centre, Praj adapted the technology to produce isobutanol from sugarcane juice and molasses feedstock.

“We will now add this isobutanol tech platform to the existing ethanol plants or develop it as a greenfield plant. It diversifies Praj’s product portfolio and reinforces leadership in the bio energy space”, Chaudhari told BusinessLine in a telephone interaction.

Under a commercial opportunity agreement recently signed in Montreal, (Canada)Praj can license the tech to any of its existing plants in India, South America, South-East Asia in the next 2-3 years. The firm has worked on about 750 projects for ethanol plants in 75 countries.

“We find the partnership with Praj, which has a massive footprint across the world and is committed to low-carbon fuels made from sugars with high yields like us, beneficial,” said Patrick Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo.

Isobutanol, an organic compound that has several direct applications as a gasoline blend stock or as a speciality chemical solvent, can be used as an intermediate which can be further converted into other chemical products or hydrocarbons.

Isobutanol to jet fuel

Gevo has developed a renewable jet fuel which offers performance advantages such as low sulphur content and lower freezing point, in addition to being a lower-carbon alternative.

Alaska Airlines and US defence forces have flown their aircraft using Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ), derived from isobutanol using corn starch and cellulosic materials as feedstock.

In the long run, Praj will be able to make the ATJ in India. Gevo has assured buy back of the isobutanol produced through the new technology commercialisation, Chaudhari said.

The US company is setting up a new plant to make the jet fuel in the US. It will be commissioned by end of 2018 or early 2019.

Gevo is expected to be the primary off-taker, marketer and initial distributor for isobutanol produced from the plants built by Praj.

The US company’s strategy is to commercialise bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products to allow optimisation of fermentation facilities.

It produces isobutanol, ethanol and high-value animal feed at its fermentation plant in Minnesota.

It also has the technology to produce hydrocarbon products from renewable alcohols.

Published on August 07, 2017

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