Changing the Game with the World’s Largest Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

Source: By Jeroen van Campen, DuPont • Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015

As a world leader in science and innovation, DuPont delivers sustainable solutions to address global challenges. In fact, we have been doing so for more than 213 years, continually reinventing ourselves to solve the challenges that each generation faced.  For this generation, and indeed for future generations, we are uniquely positioned to deliver low carbon solutions to fuel the planet.

We are leveraging our deep expertise in agriculture and biotechnology to bring advanced renewable fuels to the market. Our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions culminated in the recent opening of the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa, U.S.A. Once fully commissioned, this new facility will produce 30 million gallons, or approximately 115 million liters, of fuel-grade ethanol annually. And this is just from one plant – the first among many, as we license this technology globally. We see the impact of this technology rippling across the globe, bringing economic, energy security and environmental benefits to societies everywhere.  Most importantly, this innovative fuel reduces carbon emissions by 90% over traditional gasoline.

Let me focus for a moment on that 90% number. This substantial reduction represents an enormous opportunity to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. This 90% reduction is a farm to fuel calculation that incorporates both the agricultural inputs and practices as well as the advanced manufacturing techniques and biotechnology.

Our innovative new plant relies on an equally innovative corn stover collection program. Our feedstock is comprised of the leaves, cobs and stalks that are left behind after the corn harvest. We worked closely with Iowa State University to study and understand the agronomy of harvesting these agricultural residues, and we devised a system to safeguard the local farmland and provide improved value to farmers. By working with academics and farmers, we have proven that our harvest, storage and transportation techniques are sustainable for the long haul. In other words, this sustainable technology is no longer the stuff of dreams – this technology is a market reality and it works.

Clearly, this is a win-win for everyone, from farmers to consumers to the planet.

In order to continue down this win-win path, it is imperative that governing bodies around the world keep pace with the science and support these progressive and innovative solutions to our most pressing problems.  As we all know, energy commodities are at historically low levels and as a consequence, our emerging industry with its sustainable solutions will only be able to develop its potential if supported by policy that incentivizes investments.

As governments across the globe commit to their climate action pledges at COP21, they will be looking for solutions to deliver on them. Commercial scale, renewable cellulosic ethanol is without doubt one of the most exciting solutions of our time – and it is poised for global deployment today.The case for change is clear, as are the benefits of cellulosic ethanol when compared to fossil fuels. Now is the time to push ahead and create a sustainable energy future.

DuPont can help governments to deliver on their environmental commitments. We wholeheartedly believe in collaboration, and we are energized to work with all stakeholders to create a better future. We therefore call on governments to provide a robust policy framework, and to collaborate with us and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

I believe that future generations will look back on our collective achievements and remark that this was a turning point in human history – this was the time that science met the aspirations of man for cleaner fuels and materials. This was the time that agriculture took its rightful place in providing not just abundant food, but also new types of energy and materials.

This was the time that the world changed the way it thinks of energy, not as a finite resource, but as a renewable resource we can plan for and count on for generations to come.

Together, we can build a secure and sustainable energy future.

Jeroen van Campen is the Global Lead for Cellulosic Ethanol Licensing at DuPont.