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Agrimarketing : June 2008
54 AgriMarketing ¦ June 2008 AM: Who is Gevo? PG: Gevo is a well-funded team of industrial biotechnology experts focused on creating a sustainable replacement path for petrochemicals like gasoline and chemical interme- diates through the development of advanced biofuels and green chemicals. Currently, we are focused on devel- oping a novel fermentation for the pro- duction of isobutanol for use as a fuel and as a green chemical intermediate. It is our intent to work closely with the agricultural community and existing biofuel producers to expand the scope of products produced by existing bio- fuel facilities rather than replacing or competing with the established bio- based industry. AM: Why isobutanol? PG: Isobutanol has a good energy value (about 85% that of gasoline), is an oxy- genate which helps to reduce emis- sions and has a low vapor pressure which reduces the volatility or evapo- ration rate of the fuel during the sum- mertime. In addition, isobutanol has a very low affinity for water therefore it can be transported via existing pipelines and doesn’t require addi- tional handling at the terminals prior to distribution to your local gas station. AM: Why is it an opportunity for agriculture? PG: Our goal is to advance the use of biofuels and green chemicals produced from renewable resources. Gevo’s development of isobutanol will expand markets for agriculture. We offer a new alternative that enables existing biofuel manufacturers to pro- duce and sell another energy source while broadening their product portfo- lio to include production of green chemicals. With minor modifications, an existing Biorefinery can produce isobutanol and distribute it via the existing energy infrastructure for use in the fuels markets and the new mar- kets of green chemicals. AM: How is Gevo different than other bio- fuel companies? PG: Typically a startup company has a novel technology that enables a new process or improves on an exist- ing product. In Gevo’s case, we have the technology and are developing the entire process for producing isobutanol through the existing bio- fuels manufacturing infrastructure. Rather than focusing on a single piece of technology or building new production facilities, we are focused on helping existing biofuel producers expand their market opportunities in the areas of biofuels and green chemicals. AM: Who is funding the commercializa- tion of isobutanol by Gevo? PG: Gevo has significant backing from several sources including major support from Khosla Ventures and the Virgin Green Fund. They are both committed to help- ing companies, like Gevo, that are at an inflection point of substantial growth and/or disruptive innovation. AM: Who are your development partners? PG: Two of Gevo’s key technology partners are Caltech and UCLA. In January, Gevo announced that it had obtained an exclusive license from UCLA to use technology developed by Dr. James Liao for modifying E.coli bacteria for use in biofuel devel- opment. This new technology signals a breakthrough in the ability to mass produce advanced biofuels like isobutanol. This advanced modification method will enable us to speed up the commercial introduction of advanced biofuels like isobutanol by several years. In addition, the pro- duction of green chemicals like isobutanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol from plant sugars like glucose is now feasible. This mar- ket platform approach helps to miti- gate market risk by opening up mul- tiple end-use markets for agriculture. AM: How did you get interested in isobutanol? PG: As chief technology officer at NatureWorks LLC , I helped intro- duce the first plastic, PLA, derived 100% from annually renewable resources like corn. I also saw the opportunity for producing a variety of fuels and chemicals from annually renewable resources. As I did further research and analysis, isobutanol appeared to have the strongest fit with the market and Gevo had put several of the pieces in place to make it a market reality. So when they asked me to be CEO it was an easy decision for me. AM Name: Patrick Gruber, Ph.D. Title: CEO, Gevo, Inc., Englewood, CO Career: Began his career with Cargill. Prior to joining GEVO, he was with Outlast Technologies, Inc. Education: B.S.in chemistry and biology from the University of St. Thomas. MBA and Doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Honors: Received the inaugural George Washington Carver award from Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) this spring. He is a past recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Award and was inducted into the Minnesota Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2003. FINDING PETROCHEMICAL REPLACEMENT : Gevo Inc.
July August 2008
Canadian Agribusiness Employer Guide 08