First commercial test flight with Alaska Airlines comes closer
In Colorado, ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants and Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuel passed a concurrent ballot this week approving the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) to include alcohol to jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from renewable isobutanol.
The Gevo commercial test with Alaska
Alaska Airlines is now poised to fly the first-ever commercial test flight using Gevo’s renewable alcohol to jet fuel (ATJ). Gevo is preparing the shipment of ATJ to Alaska Airlines for this first flight. Alaska Airlines will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to schedule the flight using Gevo’s ATJ.
The ASTM technical review
The D02.J Ballot passed two levels of ASTM technical scrutiny: subcommittee and main committee ballot and is in the final stages of Society Review. The ASTM process is substantially complete as it relates to the approval of the D02.J Ballot. In order to fully complete the process, the ASTM still needs to close the Society Review, perform a final ballot tally, and publish the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) on its website. It is expected that these final actions will be completed by the ASTM in early April.
Once the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) is published by the ASTM, Gevo’s ATJ will be eligible to be used as a blending component in standard Jet A-1 for commercial airline use in the United States and in many other countries around the globe. Gevo’s ATJ would be eligible to be used for up to a 30% blend in conventional jet fuel for commercial flights.
Why a big deal?
In September, we learned Gevo aimed to increase isobutanol production at Luverne to a range of 750,000 to 1 million gallons in 2016, up 7-10x from expected 2015 production levels, in part to increase sales of isobutanol into core markets such as the alcohol-to-jet (ATJ), marina, off-road, isooctane and solvents markets.
Underpining this? Approximately $5.0M of capital expenditures for a distillation system to purify isobutanol on-site, an addition to our seed train to allow Gevo to produce its yeast on-site and a stainless steel fermenter to replace one of the existing carbon steel fermenters that has reached the end of its useful life.
The goal? Reducing the variable cost of producing isobutanol at Luverne to a range of $3.00-$3.50/gallon*, a decrease of approximately 50% from the current cost of production, enabling isobutanol to be produced at a positive contribution margin, based on an expected average selling price for isobutanol of between $3.50-$4.50/gallon
Gevo yields at this time
Gevo has demonstrated yields of 1.80-1.85 gallons per bushel and batch sizes of 16-18 thousand gallons per batch at Luverne, it said in September.
The commercial prospects?
With jet fuel selling at $0.97 per gallon based on $40 oil, don’t expect big orders from Alaska just yet. But they’ve seen as everyone has the projections of $70 oil by year end. While on a pro-rated basis we would not expect to see Alaska doing much more than demonstration that “it is doing something” based on these prices — clearly airlines need to show that they are doing something, else they’ll be regulated country-by-country on CO2 emissions.
What’s the carbon penalty right now based on Gevo’s cost structure? With $3.00 isobutanol, and that’s at the lowest possible end, that corresponds to the jet fuel cost when there’s (roughly) $100 oil. But on the other hand, there’s the $0.70 advanced bioful RIN, and there’s 1.5-1.7 in a gallon of jet fuel, so consider that there’s a $1.05 to $1.19 in RIN support there. That could well support a business for Gevo even with $70-$80 oil.
Reaction from the stakeholders
“We’re pleased that this newly-revised standard now supports isobutanol based alcohol-to-jet aviation biofuels and we look forward to flying it this year. Developing a domestic, competitively priced, sustainable supply of biofuels is fundamental to Alaska Airline’s long term sustainability goals,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airline’s Senior Vice President of External Relations.
Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer, commented, “This ASTM revision is a major achievement and supports one of Gevo’s key products. We believe that Gevo’s renewable ATJ provides a clear and cost-competitive path for commercial airlines to reduce their greenhouse gas footprints and reduce their particulate emissions from combustion. For Gevo, this step is expected to open a large and significant market to Gevo around which Gevo expects to build a profitable business.”
And Gevo is raising capital on the back of this
Gevo hailed the ballot as paving the way towards a commercial test of ATJ fuel. And, the company announced on the heels of this approval a complex financing plan.
Here’s the Gevo alphabet soup.
It will sell Series C units, with each Series C unit consisting of one share of common stock, Series F warrants to purchase a certain number of shares of common stock and Series H warrants to purchase a certain number of shares of common stock.
Not too bad so far. But, Gevo is also offering Series D units, in lieu of Series C units, to those purchasers whose purchase of additional Series C units in the offering would result in the purchaser beneficially owning more than 4.99% of the Company’s outstanding common stock following the completion of the offering.
The Series D units will consist of pre-funded Series G warrants to purchase one share of common stock, Series F warrants to purchase a certain number of shares of common stock and Series H warrants to purchase a certain number of shares of common stock.