DuPont Breaks Ground On Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

DuPont is one step closer to commercializing advanced biofuels by breaking ground on its cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, IA. Expected to be completed in mid-2014, this more than $200 million facility will be among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world.

This new facility is expected to generate 30 million gallons annually of cellulosic biofuel produced from corn stover residues, a non-food feedstock that consists of corn stalks and leaves. This is more capacity than original estimates called for as data derived from our piloting facility in Tennessee has allowed DuPont to further optimize our process and technology. This first commercial facility will require a capital investment of about $7 per gallon of annual capacity. “Nearly a decade ago, DuPont set out to develop innovative technology that would result in low capital and low-cost cellulosic ethanol production. We recognized that science-powered innovation was the catalyst to make cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality and to help reduce global dependence on fossil fuels,” said James C. Collins, president, DuPont Industrial Biosciences.

“By leveraging DuPont Pioneer corn production expertise and designing an integrated technology platform, we’ve built an affordable and sustainable entry point into this new industry. We’re committed to continued productivity gains to drive costs down even further for the coming generations of plants, ones based on corn stover as well as other feedstocks,” Collins continued.  “And we didn’t get to this point alone. We’ve built an incredible partnership with the state of Iowa, Iowa State University, entrepreneurial growers and a whole host of partners around the country who share our vision of making renewable fuels a commercial reality.”

Collins was joined by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to celebrate the official beginning of construction on the facility at a ceremony held at the construction site adjacent to grain ethanol facility Lincolnway Energy.

“During my previous terms as governor, we were excited to bring ethanol production to the state.  After many hard years of work by Iowa growers and technology companies like DuPont, Iowa now leads the country in renewable fuel production,” said Governor Branstad. This site in Nevada is the next critical step in our cellulosic ethanol journey. We look forward to bringing these advanced technologies online, creating local jobs and helping to deliver clean, sustainable energy.”

Making Cellulosic Ethanol A Reality

Agricultural Impact

To supply the corn stover for its plant, DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of stover per year into the Nevada facility. In addition to the estimated 60 full-time plant operations jobs, there will be over 150 individuals involved in the collection, stacking, transportation and storage of the stover feedstock seasonally during each harvest. The stover will be collected from an approximate 30 mile radius around the new facility and harvested off of 190,000 acres.

For many corn growers, residue management is a major challenge when maximizing their potential grain yield. Leftover corn stover interferes with planting, delays stand establishment, monopolizes nitrogen in the soil and often harbors damaging insect, pests and pathogens. Some stover from the corn crop is left on the field to protect the soil from erosion.

“Many of us who have participated in the stover harvest program with DuPont are already seeing benefits of this alternative residue management strategy including positive effects on grain yields the following year on our fields,” said Jim Hill, a corn grower whose stover will be used to supply DuPont’s biorefinery. “We’re excited to work with DuPont to supply stover to this new biorefinery, partner to discover new markets for our products and co-products and develop new crop production techniques based on the opportunity to manage residues thru partial stover removal.”

DuPont will further adapt its cellulosic ethanol technology to additional feedstocks. It is already processing switchgrass in the testing facility it owns jointly with the University of Tennessee near Knoxville, TN.

Environmental Impact

The use of advanced biofuels can result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. An International Organization for Standardization (ISO) compliant, peer reviewed life cycle assessment of the DuPont biorefinery and supply chain indicates a potential greater than 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline. This significant greenhouse gas reduction is enabled by use of cellulosic co-products as a source of renewable energy. The DuPont biorefinery co-product is a material that can displace coal in facilities currently burning this fossil fuel.

Regional businesses and academic institutions have already indicated interest in exploring the potential use of the renewable co-products to replace portions of their coal fired operations.

“We are excited to explore the various synergies between Lincolnway and DuPont that bring value to both companies. One area is the possibility of using DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol co-product to replace our coal usage,” said Lincolnway Energy Chairman Jeff Taylor. “We strive to continually improve our operations and environmental impact. Replacing our fossil fuels with this renewable cellulosic ethanol co-product to generate heat and power makes great sense. It is generated right next door, would reduce our coal usage and the transportation costs of shipping coal cars almost a thousand miles.”

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