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DuPont, BP Win Temporary Halt to Rival Isobutanol Sales

A joint venture between DuPont Co. and BP Plc won a court order temporarily preventing a competing biofuel company from trying to sell isobutanol produced at a plant that came online last month.

U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson, in Wilmington, Delaware, issued an order yesterday limiting Gevo Inc. from shipping the chemical, used in making biofuels, to new customers. The company can continue selling isobutanol to Sasol Chemical Industries Ltd. and the U.S. Air Force, Robinson said.

Gevo is involved in several patent lawsuits with Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, which DuPont, a specialty chemical maker based in Wilmington, and U.K.-based oil company BP, own.

“This order provides protection for markets of key interest to Butamax,” Butamax Chief Executive Officer Paul Beckwith said in a statement.

Gevo, based in Englewood, Colorado, built a biofuels plant in Luverne, Minnesota, to produce renewable additives that can be sold to oil refiners that make diesel and jet fuel. The Minnesota plant can also produce ethanol, according to court papers.

Robinson said the limits on Gevo will remain in place until she issues a decision on a related request for a preliminary injunction.

‘That’s Fine’

The order means Gevo can’t pursue new customers, Brett Lund, Gevo’s general counsel, said in an interview today.

“Our business model is to sell into jet-fuel and chemical markets,” Lund said. The judge “is just saying ‘Don’t go beyond your business model,’ and that’s fine,” he said.

The ruling on Butamax’s request for a preliminary injunction could come in two to three weeks, Lund said.

Last year, Gevo asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review the validity of a Butamax patent for a fuel additive, questioning who was first to invent the technology.

The case is Butamax (TM) Advanced Biofuels LLC v. Gevo Inc., 12-cv-70 U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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