Gevo flies high by supplying renewable jet fuel to Virgin Australia

US advanced biofuels company Gevo announced that it expects to supply its renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) to the Virgin Australia Group, a well-known Australian airline group. 

The Virgin Australia Group 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.  It is currently contemplated that Gevo will ship the first gallons of ATJ to the Virgin Australia Group in October 2017.

Gevo will supply the ATJ from its hydrocarbon plant based in Silsbee, Texas. The ATJ is derived from isobutanol produced at its commercial isobutanol plant located in Luverne, Minnesota.

Gevo is looking to expand its isobutanol production capabilities at the Luverne facility to enable larger production volumes of its ATJ in the future.

 Gevo has a goal in 2017 of obtaining binding supply contracts for a combination of isobutanol and hydrocarbon products (ATJ and isooctane) equal to at least 50% of the capacity of the anticipated expanded Luverne facility.

These supply contracts are expected to form the basis on which Gevo would set the specific configuration of the Luverne Facility in terms of end product mix between isobutanol, ATJ and isooctane.

The Queensland government is supporting the arrangement as a first step in the development of a renewable jet fuel production industry in the state.

Queensland is looking to leverage carbohydrate-based feedstocks, abundant to its local agricultural sector, to support the build-out of renewable jet fuel production plants in the future. Gevo is well positioned to play a role in this growth, as the company believes its ATJ is cost advantaged in comparison to other renewable jet alternatives derived from carbohydrate-based feedstocks.

Virgin Australia Group CEO, John Borghetti, said: “This initiative builds on Virgin Australia’s commitment to be a leader in the commercialisation of the sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. The project announced today is critical to testing the fuel supply chain infrastructure in Australia to ensure that Virgin Australia and Brisbane Airport are ready for the commercial supply of these exciting fuels.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: “Biojet is fast becoming a staple of the aviation industry, and Brisbane is joining major airports such as Los Angeles and Oslo in embracing a sustainable aviation future. Although the aviation biojet fuel sector is quite new, there has been more than a decade of work behind it and hundreds of thousands of hours of fuel testing to prove the fuels are compatible with fossil based fuels. The first aviation biojet fuels were approved for commercial flights in 2011.”

Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO, said: “We are excited to work in partnership with Virgin Australia, the Queensland government and the Brisbane Airport Corporation to enable flights out of the Brisbane Airport using our ATJ. We believe Queensland offers huge potential for low-cost, biomass-based feedstocks to produce biofuels. When I visited Queensland last year for the Biofutures Industry Forum, I discovered the depth and diversity of its agriculture sector. It really opened our eyes to Queensland's potential for sustainable aviation fuels based on Gevo’s ATJ technology.”

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