DuPont cellulosic ethanol technology to open and benefit the RFS

Source: By Rich Keller, Ag Professional • Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015

There has been no fanfare about the Nevada, Iowa, cellulosic ethanol plant constructed by DuPont going online to produce cellulosic ethanol from corn stover, but the global business director of biofuels at DuPont, Jan Koninckx, indicated the plant was to be in commercial operation by the end of October during a recent interview.

The host of E&E News video network, Monica Trauzzi, asked Koninckx what impact he anticipates on the ethanol market when DuPont will “open its state-of-the-art cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Iowa at the end of this month.” She also noted that this opening had “been delayed for about a year.”

He replied that the technology is revolutionary and proven, and the company is extremely excited about providing “a truly renewable, sustainable fuel supply in the U.S. and in the world that is more distributed rather than concentrated in single, large fossil facilities.”

He explained “more distributed than concentrated” by saying the company is licensing the proprietary technology for cellulosic ethanol production facilities internationally, including to China, but additional U.S. cellulosic ethanol investment is clouded. Koninckx indicated the unclear approach that Congress and the EPA is taking toward continuing the original goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard has made additional investment in cellulosic ethanol facilities in the U.S. less attractive.

He said, “We developed this technology for global rollout, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We would have liked to see more of that opportunity in the U.S. and that’s certainly possible with a clear signal from the Administration through EPA as it pertains to the implementation of the RFS.”

It is interesting that he referenced less concentrated at large fossil facilities, when the Nevada plant will be the “world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.” When in full production, it will be able to produce 30 million gallons of ethanol per year. Reaching that level of production won’t be immediate, and the rest of this year will be ramp up operations.

“The supply chain is fully operation. We’re bringing in feedstock. So, we’re ready to go,” Koninckx said. ”We’ve worked very closely with growers here. We’ve brought to bear our competency in agriculture. We work with about 400 growers, and we’ve built a supply chain that’s truly sustainable in collaboration with USDA that allows growers to use this collection of corn stover of the agriculture residue to their benefit.”

As far as DuPont and other investors meeting the cellulosic ethanol production goals of the original RFS, Knonickx said, “The RFS is a great piece of legislation. … The RFS goals have been met or exceeded in everything except cellulosic ethanol where the goal was aspirational as it was foreseen.”

He referenced “people” who want to change the RFS, and it was easy to read between the lines that he was referring to the fossil fuel industry. “I think the calls to change or to repeal the RFS are really based on the fact that people can see now that this (cellulosic ethanol production) will work and that this will change the energy landscape and that may threaten some people.”