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Advanced biofuels maker Gevo files to go public

Gevo seeks to scale up its process of using plants to make isobutanol, a renewable hydrocarbon that can be used to make chemicals and liquid fuels, including jet fuel.

Gevo is out to prove that the sleeper success story in the biofuels business is isobutanol.

The Denver-based company on Thursday filed an S-1 document stating its plans to raise $150 million by going public on the stock market. On Wednesday, algae biofuel company PetroAlgae also filed for an initial public offering.

Gevo was started in 2005 to commercialize technology from California Institute of Technology and raised an initial investment from Khosla Ventures, followed by two subsequent rounds.

It is one of many so-called second-generation biofuels companies seeking to make fuels from biomass. Rather than ethanol, though, Gevo's process is for making isobutanol, which can be used as a solvent, blended to make jet fuel or other liquid fuels, or used as a raw material for plastics or rubber.

Earlier this month, the company purchased an ethanol facility in Minnesota. Starting in 2012, it intends to make isobutanol using different feedstocks, including corn, wheat, and sugar cane. Later, it expects to use non-food, cellulosic feedstocks. Its fermentation process, which includes a yeast catalyst, can be fitted onto ethanol facilities, according to the company.

In its S-1, the company indicated that it's looking to raise money on the stock market in part to sidestep the weak project financing conditions, noted clean-tech investor Rob Day. The company plans to use the money from the IPO to buy and retrofit ethanol plants, which it said is a more capital-efficient way to bring product to market.

Updated at 3:12 p.m. PT to clarify feedstock strategy.