DuPont starts biorefinery work

DuPont starts biorefinery work

- Facility to produce 30m gal. of biofuels from corn stover.

- Farmers to supply plant with 375,000 tons of stover.

- DuPont to adapt cellulosic ethanol technology to additional feedstocks.

DUPONT came one step closer to commercializing advanced biofuels by breaking ground Nov. 30 on its cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, according to an announcement.

Expected to be completed in mid-2014, the $200 million-plus facility will be among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world, the announcement said.

The Nevada facility is expected to generate 30 million gal. annually of cellulosic biofuels produced from corn stover residues, a non-food feedstock that consists of corn stalks and leaves.

This commercial facility will require a capital investment of about $7/gal. 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 of 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," Collins added. "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 -- 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 Gov. Terry Branstad to celebrate the official start of construction on the facility at a ceremony held at the Nevada construction site adjacent to the Lincolnway Energy grain ethanol facility.


Agricultural impact

To supply the corn stover for its Nevada plant, DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver more than 375,000 dry tons of stover per year to the facility, according to the announcement.

In addition to the estimated 60 full-time plant operations jobs, more than 150 individuals will be involved in the collection, stacking, transportation and storage of the stover feedstock seasonally during each harvest. The stover will be collected from an approximately 30-mile radius around the new facility and harvested off of 190,000 acres (Figure).

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 insects, pests and pathogens, the announcement said. 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 through partial stover removal."

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


Environmental impact

The use of advanced biofuels can result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. A peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment of the DuPont biorefinery and supply chain indicated a potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 100% compared to gasoline, according to the announcement. This reduction is enabled by the use of cellulosic co-products as a source of renewable energy.

Regional businesses and academic institutions already have 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," Lincolnway Energy chairman Jeff Taylor said. "One area is the possibility of using DuPont's cellulosic ethanol co-product to replace our coal usage. ... 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 (and) would reduce our coal usage and the transportation costs of shipping coal cars almost a thousand miles."

DuPont's mission is to help find solutions to such global challenges as providing enough healthy food for people everywhere, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and protecting life and the environment.

Volume:84 Issue:51

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