Gevo and Los Alamos National Laboratory partner to develop renewable missile fuel

Gevo, Inc. will partner with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), based in Los Alamos, N.M., on a project to improve the energy density of certain Gevo hydrocarbon products, such as its alcohol-to-jet-fuel (ATJ), to meet product specifications for tactical fuels for specialised military applications such as RJ4, RJ6 and JP10, which are currently purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

ChemCatBio, a consortium within the U.S. Department of Energy, awarded funding to LANL in support of the project.

Gevo, which is based in Englewood, Colo., and LANL are looking to develop a low-cost, catalytic technology that would be bolted onto Gevo’s existing isobutanol-to-hydrocarbons process to produce high energy density fuels (HEDFs). With the successful scale-up of this technology, it is believed that Gevo’s HEDFs could be produced at a lower cost than its petroleum-based equivalent, even at current low oil prices.

HEDFs are currently used in air and sea-launched cruise missiles used by U.S. military forces. If this project is successful in scaling HEDFs cost effectively, there may be an even broader application in the general aviation sector, enabling higher energy density jet fuel that would provide superior mileage to traditional aviation fuels.

“High energy density fuels have the potential to increase the range of an aircraft or increase the payload that could be carried,” said Andrew Sutton of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “That gives an obvious tactical advantage, but if this could eventually be scaled for wider use then translating these benefits to commercial airlines would have an even greater global impact.”

“Currently, certain HEDFs are supplied by limited suppliers, so the DoD is interested in supporting alternative sources of these fuels, and potentially at a lower cost,” said Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO. “The added benefit that this would be a renewable fuel that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions is just icing on the cake.”

Earlier, Gevo, Inc. also revealed that it will supply its renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel to the Virgin Australia Group, a leading Australian airline group. Virgin Australia will be responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the ATJ into the fuel supply system at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia.

Gevo’s ATJ is expected to be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied on flights departing Brisbane Airport, including Virgin Australia flights. Gevo will ship the first gallons of ATJ to the Virgin Australia Group from Gevo’s hydrocarbon plant based in Silsbee, Texas, U.S.A., this month.

ATJ is derived from isobutanol produced at its commercial isobutanol plant located in Luverne, Minn., U.S.A. Gevo is looking to expand its isobutanol production capabilities at the Luverne Facility to enable larger production volumes of ATJ in the future.