DuPont, University Partner On Pilot Facility

A fast-track pilot plant will develop commercialization technology for corn stover and switchgrass, with the facility expected to open next year.

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE) and the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation, through its Genera Energy LLC, are partnering to construct an innovative pilot-scale biorefinery and state-of-the-art research and development facility for cellulosic ethanol in Vonore, TN.

The pilot-scale biorefinery will develop the commercial package for DDCE’s leading cellulosic ethanol technology. The project will utilize UT’s world-class expertise in cellulosic feedstock production and co-product research, as well as its work with Tennessee growers to develop the first dedicated cellulosic energy crop supply chain for cellulosic biorefineries utilizing switchgrass. The facility design will incorporate the flexibility to operate on two different non-food biomass feedstocks — corn stover; cobs and fiber; and switchgrass.

The pilot plant and process development unit (PDU) will be located at the Niles Ferry Industrial Park. A PDU is a research facility that enables both experimentation at larger than laboratory scale and more rapid adjustments to process components. The plant capacity will be 250,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. Site preparations are scheduled to begin this fall, and ethanol should be available from the pilot plant by December 2009.

The university has invested state research dollars toward the development of switchgrass as a potential energy crop for the state and the United States. The first switchgrass plots that will supply the pilot biorefinery were planted by area growers this spring. These crops will fully mature in three years, and demonstration of switchgrass-to-ethanol conversion could begin as early as 2010. The pilot plant will initially process western Tennessee corn cobs to ethanol and then will optimize its technology for switchgrass to ethanol conversion.

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC brings together two leaders in the field — DuPont and Genencor, a division of Danisco.

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