Aviation fuel producer breaks ground on massive S.D. project

Colorado-based Gevo Inc. officially has started work on a massive project in Lake Preston estimated at more than $1 billion that will produce sustainable aviation fuel.

Gevo chose the site for its project, called Net-Zero 1, after 18 months of due diligence, the company said.

The company aims to eliminate greenhouse gases from transportation fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuel, and operates a pilot-scale facility for jet fuel in Luverne, Minnesota.

In Lake Preston, “the local availability of low-carbon corn as a feedstock for our process makes Lake Preston a favorable location for this operation,” Tony Wells, Gevo’s site leader and general manager, said in a statement. “Additionally, the local wind conditions are ideal for the wind power that will provide electricity to our plant, and there is a good local market for the high-protein animal feed product that we will be selling.”

Gov. Kristi Noem announced that the project represents the largest economic investment in South Dakota history.

“Businesses are choosing South Dakota because we are open for business and we give them the opportunity to succeed,” Noem said in a statement. “This facility proves that government mandates are not necessary for our energy industry to be environmentally responsible. Companies like Gevo are taking the lead building an all-of-the-above American energy supply, and they’re working with our farmers to do it.”

Gevo’s facility will create 1,000 jobs during construction and 90 long-term, high-paying jobs, according to the state.

The facility will use sustainable, regionally grown corn as its feedstock and will pay farmers a premium for sustainably grown corn.

Gevo trades on the Nasdaq under GEVO. Its mission is to transform renewable energy and carbon into energy-dense liquid hydrocarbons. The liquid hydrocarbons can be used for drop-in transportation fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel that when burned have potential to yield net-zero greenhouse gas emissions when measured across the full life cycle of the products.

Gevo uses low-carbon, renewable resource-based carbohydrates as raw materials and is in what the company calls “an advanced state of developing renewable electricity and renewable natural gas for use in production processes, resulting in low-carbon fuels with substantially reduced carbon intensity.”

The potential of the Lake Preston project is immense, CEO Patrick Gruber said.

“We are working to bring sustainable agriculture into the solution to capture carbon and catalyze the build-out of wind, renewable hydrogen and biogas, combined with new paradigms for managing energy. I expect that Lake Preston and South Dakota will showcase what works well when all the parts unite. I want to get on with it and show people what is possible,” Gruber said.

“Capturing renewable energy and transforming it into SAF and other liquid hydrocarbon fuels is game-changing. It enables the transformation of renewable energy and carbon in the form of liquids to anywhere it is needed, and it can be done on a net-zero GHG life cycle basis when all of the parts of the business system are accounted for. We expect that Middle America will continue to lead the energy transition.”

Gevo also will support two Build Dakota Scholarships for students at Lake Area Technical College. The Build Dakota program offers full-ride scholarships to qualifying students in return for time spent working in the state  after graduation.

“Net-Zero 1 is huge for the renewals fuels sector and incredibly exciting for South Dakota,” said Joni Ekstrum, executive director of South Dakota Biotech. “The opportunity this facility will bring for our agriculture community and our skilled workforce is enormous. This is the kind of investment the state has positioned itself for years, and it’s so rewarding to see something like this come to fruition.”

Earlier in the approval process, Gevo said that once the plant is in full operation, it will be able to produce 46 million gallons of aviation fuel in a year. That could supply major players in the aviation industry. The company reported on social media in July that Delta Air Lines had visited its Luverne facility.

This project schedule should allow Gevo to begin delivery of initial volumes of the aviation fuel in 2025 to fulfill a portion of existing supply agreements, the company said.
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