ENGLEWOOD, Colombia—Renewable fuels and chemicals manufacturer Gevo Inc. has developed a "breakthrough" catalytic process that transforms waste by-product into isoprene.
The process involves using chemical-based catalysts to convert low-value, fusel oils into isoprene, according to a company news release.
Fusel oils are mixtures of alcohols—by-products from fermentation processes, such as bio-based ethanol production.
The isoprene end-product can compete "head-to-head" on price with natural and petroleum-based chemical equivalents, Gevo said.
According to the company, oils from the ethanol industry alone can amount to 2.5 million metric tons of potential bio-based waste feedstock.
"Renewable, low-carbon, low-cost isoprene has been pursued by a lot of companies over the years without commercial success," Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber said.
In many of these projects the fermentation processes were deemed to be "too expensive to make isoprene directly," Gruber said.
Gevo now expects to pursue a licensing strategy with the new technology, according to the CEO.
"Potential licensees could be ethanol producers that want to improve the profitability of their facilities," Gruber said.
The market for isoprene, which is mostly used in the production of synthetic rubber, is set to reach $3.95 billion by 2025, he said.
Demand for isoprene is expected to increase 7 percent annually, driven by growth in the automotive sector, Gevo added.