Gevo opens paraxylene plant, discusses energy policy with Bennet

By Erin Voegele | August 26, 2013

On Aug. 26, Gevo Inc. held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its demonstration-scale paraxylene plant in Silsbee, Texas. The facility is adjacent to the company’s existing jet fuel demonstration plant. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas; Mike Schultheis, principal engineer of sustainable packaging global research and development at the Coca Cola Co.; James Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and Simon Upfill-Brown, president of South Hampton Resources, were on hand to participate in the grand opening.

Paraxylene is a building block for renewable polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a polyesters that is used to produce bottles, packaging films, and fibers used textiles, clothing and other applications. Gevo is working with Toray Industries Inc. to develop the product.

Gevo and Toray originally signed a non-binding letter of interest for the future supply of renewable paraxylene in 2010, and announced the successful production of renewable PET in June 2011. According to information released by Gevo, Toray provided funding assistance for the construction of the paraxylene demonstration plant, and has signed an offtake agreement for paraxzylene produced at the facility. Paraxylene purchased by Toray will be converted into PET fibers, textiles and films for scale-up evaluation and market development purposes.

Gevo also announced that research and development support for the new demonstrating plant was provided by Coca-Cola under a joint development agreement. Gevo and Coca-Cola first announced their partnership to develop and commercialize renewable plastic bottles in late 2011.

"We believe we have an elegant, viable route to fully-renewable, non-petroleum derived PET and we are pleased that The Coca-Cola Company and Toray have supported this work," said Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo. "Fully renewable PET has the potential to make the world a better place by reducing our dependence on oil and the environmental consequences associated with petroleum based raw materials." 

Gruber briefly mentioned the paraxylene demonstration plant in early August during a call to discuss the company’s second quarter financial results. At that time he thanked the Coca-Cola Co. and Toray for supporting the work to transform isobutanol into renewable polyester. During that call, Mark Smith, chief financial officer of Gevo, also noted that increased research and development expenses reported during the quarter resulted from investment in the facility.

Less than a week prior to the announcement regarding the demonstration facility, Gevo announced that Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., met with the company and toured its Colorado headquarters. Bennet met with Gruber and other Gevo executives to discuss energy policy and the importance of renewable fuels and chemicals.

"We applaud Senator Bennet's support for the renewable energy industry and appreciate his visit to our headquarters to learn about the technology that makes Gevo a leading renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company," Gruber said.

"Colorado has a strong reputation as a hub for innovation and firms like Gevo are leading the way,” Bennet said. “By developing innovative techniques for converting biomass to fuel, Gevo is a critical part of developing a balanced national energy portfolio."