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Gevo produces paraxylene from sustainable materials
Aug '13
Gevo, Inc., the world's only commercial producer of bio-isobutanol, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its demonstration-scale paraxylene plant in Silsbee, Texas.

The paraxylene facility is located adjacent to Gevo's existing jet fuel plant in Silsbee, and establishes the site as a biorefinery that will serve the renewable chemicals and true drop-in biofuels markets.

Congressman Steve Stockman, Mike Schultheis, Principal Engineer Sustainable Packaging Global R&D of The Coca-Cola Company, James C. Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and Simon Upfill-Brown, President of South Hampton Resources were on hand to deliver remarks and participate in the grand opening.

Gevo is working with The Coca-Cola Company to deliver a new production technology for renewable paraxylene, a key building block for producing fully renewable PET for beverage bottles. Research and Development support for this plant was provided by The Coca-Cola Company under a Joint Development Agreement.

Gevo is working with Toray Industries, Inc. to develop renewable paraxylene, a building block for fully renewable polyester for packaging films and fibers used in textiles, clothing and other applications. Funding assistance for the construction of the paraxylene plant was provided by Toray Industries, Inc., one of the world's leading producers of fibers, plastics, films, and chemicals.

Gevo and Toray have successfully produced fully renewable and recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers and films from isobutanol at laboratory scale in 2011. Toray has also signed an offtake agreement for paraxylene produced at the Silsbee facility. Toray will purchase paraxylene from Gevo and will convert it into PET fibers, textiles and films for scale-up evaluation and market development purposes. 

"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, Gevo's chief executive officer. "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."

"While the technology to make bio-based materials in a lab has been available for many years, we believe Gevo possesses technologies that have high potential to create it on a global commercial level within the next few years," added Scott Vitters, General Manager, PlantBottleTM Packaging Innovation Platform at The Coca-Cola Company. "The opening of this facility is an important milestone toward our vision of creating all of our PET plastic packaging from responsibly-sourced plant materials."

The majority of the world's PET production is for synthetic fibers (in excess of 60 percent), with bottle production accounting for around 30 percent of global demand. Gevo's paraxylene, once converted to bio-based PET, has high potential for any commercial application currently served by petroleum-derived PET.

According to Yukichi Deguchi, Senior Vice President, Member of the Board, and General Manager of the R&D division at Toray, Toray's management policy states that all business strategies must place priority on the global environment in an effort to help realize a sustainable society. 

Under this policy, Toray is expanding its biomass-derived materials business centered on research and development of biomass-derived polymers.  "PET is one of the major polymer products for Toray and the completion of this demonstration-scale facility by Gevo is a significant step to evaluate business potential for the fully renewable PET," Deguchi said.


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