Gevo discusses plans to produce low carbon ethanol, jet fuel

By Erin Voegele | March 18, 2020

Officials from Gevo Inc. discussed plans to produce renewable aviation fuel and upgrade the company’s biorefinery in Luverne, Minnesota, to produce low carbon ethanol during a fourth quarter earnings call, held March 17.

Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, opened the call by noting the company had set a goal to secure take-or-pay offtake contracts for 10 million gallons of isooctane for gasoline and renewable jet fuel in 2019. The company surpassed that goal, he said, noting Gevo secured take-or-pay offtake contracts for 17 million gallons of the product last year. Additional contracts are expected to be secured soon.

According to Gruber, demand for renewable jet fuel is growing as airlines and other fuel users are seeing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “We think that this pressure is going to continue and build over the long run,” he said.

That demand, coupled with the take-or-pay contracts the company expects to secure would require Gevo to build a plant with much higher production capacity than its existing Luverne facility. “We are already looking at several new sites for production,” Gruber said, noting the company plans to have a larger-scale plant online by 2023, assuming it can secure financing.  

Gruber also discussed ongoing work Gevo is completing to lower the carbon intensity of the ethanol it produces at the Luverne plant. In March, the company celebrated the grand opening of a wind power project that will provide electricity to the plant. Gevo is also working to develop a biogas project that will replace natural gas used at the facility with renewable biogas. That project is expected to begin delivering biogas to the Luverne facility in 2021.

During the call, Gruber called ethanol a “non-strategic product for Gevo.” The company only produced ethanol last year when it believed margins would be positive. A similar plan is in place for 2020. Gruber said Gevo is working to lower the carbon score of its ethanol through the wind and biogas projects, which will allow the company to sell the resulting fuel into California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards market.

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Gruber said the company’s contracts for jet fuel have not been impacted. The fuel Gevo has contracted is scheduled to be supplied in the 2023/2024 timeframe. “In the long turn, airline travel isn’t going away,” Gruber said.

Gevo reported $6.9 million in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019, up from $6.6 million for the same period of 2018. Loss from operations was $6.2 million, compared to a loss of $6.7 million during the fourth quarter of 2018. Non-GAAP cash EBITDA loss was $4 million compared to $4.7 million. Net loss per share was 50 cents for the fourth quarter of last year, compared to a net loss of 83 cents per share during the same period of 2018.