LEVERKUSEN, Germany (May 26, 2010) – Synthetic rubber supplier Lanxess A.G. has bought into Gevo Inc., a U.S.-based biofuel and biochemical company, to collaborate on a solution for producing isobutene from renewable resources.
Isobutene is a key material used in the making of butyl rubber, of which Leverkusen-based Lanxess is the second-largest producer in the world.
The company has invested $10 million in Denver-based Gevo, the companies announced jointly May 26. In exchange, Lanxess has received a minority share in Gevo and a seat on its board of directors, which will be filled by Ron Commander, head of Lanxess' Butyl Rubber business unit.
Isobutene is conventionally produced in steam crackers, which use petroleum derivatives as feedstock. As an alternative, Gevo is developing a fermentation process to produce the organic compound isobutanol — a fundamental building block for making biodiesel fuel as well as plastics, rubber and fibers — from the fermentable sugars in biomass, starting with corn.
Gevo and Lanxess intend to use their technical know-how to produce isobutene by dehydrating isobutanol, the firms said. Researchers from Lanxess' innovation department and its Butyl Rubber unit will work together to optimize the dehydration process, which has proven successful in the laboratory, the company said.