DuPont Industrial Biosciences announced Thursday that it will exit cellulosic biofuels production and will sell its 30-million-gallon-a-year cellulosic biofuels plant in Nevada, IA.
Wendy Rosen, leader of global public affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences, released the following statement on behalf of DuPont Industrial Biosciences:
“As part of DowDuPont’s intent to create a leading Specialty Products Company, we are making a strategic shift in how we participate in the cellulosic biofuels market.
While we still believe in the future of cellulosic biofuels we have concluded it is in our long-term interest to find a strategic buyer for our technology including the Nevada, IA biorefinery.
We will continue to participate in the overall biofuels market through specialty offerings including biofuel enzymes and engineered yeast solutions that improve yield and productivity for biofuel producers.
We plan to work closely with local, state and federal partners to assure a smooth transition as we pursue the sale of the business.
All affected employees will receive support services during this transition.”
DuPont celebrated on Oct. 30, 2015 the opening of its 30-million-gallon-a-year (MMGY) cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, IA.
At the time, the company said the biorefinery will be the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant when it reached full production.
Jan Koninckx, DuPont’s global business director of biorefineries, predicted at the time that shipments of cellulosic ethanol should begin in 2016, but he declined to say when the plant will reach full production.
“We know there’s a degree of uncertainty in the startup of a new plant,” he said.
Koninckx made the remarks at the grand opening ceremonies held at the plant, which is located west of Nevada, IA and adjacent to Lincolnway Energy, a corn ethanol plant that is separately owned.
DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol plant was designed to use technology that processes parts of the corn plant known as stover that consists of parts of the stalks, leaves, and cobs and the company developed a stover feedstock supply chain for the harvest, collection, storage, and delivery of the stover between the farm fields and the plant gate.
DuPont estimated that the total economic impact through its corn stover collection program and payroll for its 85 employees will be millions of dollars a year. The Nevada plant’s 85 permanent jobs include operators, technical personnel, and management.
Grand Opening Ceremonies
At the grand opening ceremonies held Oct. 30, 2015 at the plant, William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, said that potential customers have expressed a lot of interest in the new technology but, because of uncertainty caused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to lower the amount of cellulosic ethanol that must be blended with gasoline, Feehery said investors’ interest in cellulosic technology has stalled in the
United States. However, he noted, a lot of interest in the technology has come from Latin America, China, and Europe.
“Today, we fulfill our promise to the global biofuels industry with the dedication of our Iowa facility,” Feehery said at the grand opening ceremonies.
“And perhaps more significantly, we fulfill our promise to society to bring scientific innovation to the market that positively impacts people’s lives.
Cellulosic biofuel is joining ranks with wind and solar as true alternatives to fossil fuels, reducing damaging environmental impacts and increasing our energy security.”
A long roster of dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (currently the U.S. Ambassador to China), joined Koninckx and Feehery at the grand opening ceremonies.
DuPont’s research on cellulosic ethanol production began in 2000, when the company began working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO to increase the performance of cellulosic ethanol enzymes and fermentation technology.
The results of that work have formed the scientific foundation for DuPont’s commercial biofuels program.
In 2009, the company began operating a fully-integrated, 250,000-gallon-a-year demonstration facility in Vonore, TN in collaboration with the University of Tennessee’s Biofuels Initiative and Genera Energy.
While the technology it developed for cellulosic ethanol production is brand-new, DuPont said in written answers to questions from BioFuels Journal that it has been operating plants of many different capacities for many different products since it was founded 213 years ago in 1802.
“The company is uniquely experienced in the management of plant operations,” it said.
In 2011, DuPont Industrial Biosciences purchased 50 acres of land that had housed the Nevada municipal golf course adjacent to the existing 50- MMGY Lincolnway Energy, LLC corn ethanol plant, which began operations May 22, 2006.
By locating the plant next to Lincolnway, DuPont said it hoped to benefit from potential synergies in energy and logistical management.
Another advantage of the Nevada site is the abundant supply of corn stover produced in the area, the company said.
Also, Nevada is located 10 miles from the campus of Iowa State University in Ames and 40 miles from the headquarters of DuPont Pioneer seed company in Johnston, IA.
DuPont’s ownership of Pioneer makes the company heir to a 90-year legacy of doing business with farmers in Iowa.
The State of Iowa’s strong support for renewable fuels also played a role in making Nevada, IA the ideal location for the plant, according to the company.
With its expertise in the fields of feedstock production, bioprocessing, and biofuel production, DuPont chose to produce cellulosic ethanol because the company was uniquely positioned to help make cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels a commercial reality.
DuPont installed a natural gas boiler at the plant because it wanted to demonstrate the many co-product applications that may be available to its licensing customers, applications that are best suited for its customers’ specific needs.
DuPont said that it built strong relationships with its community partners to inform local residents about the plant.
“We are the first facility of this type to have formed a Community Advisory Panel (CAP),” the company said, “so that we can elicit feedback from the community firsthand and share information and knowledge with our community partners.”