DuPont set to move ahead with Iowa refinery

Source: Written by Cori Anne Natoli, The News Journal • Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Zeroing in on a megatrend to reduce dependance on fossil fuels, the DuPont Co. soon will embark on a $200 million undertaking to bring a new technology to market by building a 28 million-gallon-a-year cellulosic ethanol refinery.

The DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Nevada, Iowa site will use about 360,000 tons of locally bought biomass each year. For those having doubts whether the technology – criticized by some – is coming, DuPont says it’s imminent.

“I think it’s important to stress that this is real and I’m sure people have doubts about cellulosic ethanol but it is real and it is coming,” said Jan Koninckx, global business director for DuPont Biofuels. “We are developing technology that enables the biofuels industry to grow.”

The firm will demonstrate the technology at its coming Nevada site by licensing it to suppliers and in some instances, partnering with them.

“It’s not our objective to be the biggest biofuel producer in the world, but instead we want to enable many players in this industry to participate,” Koninckx said. “We think this is a technology that has nothing but benefits in greenhouse gas reduction and the creation of jobs with these plants.”

The 210-year-old Wilmington-based firm is rooted in developing and applying market-based science to address global megatrends and cellulosic ethanol fits squarely into that mission, Koninckx said of the technology, 10 years in the making.

When compared to gasoline, cellulosic ethanol, made from corn stover, reduces greenhouse gases by more than 60 to 100 percent, according to DuPont, which says its commercial scale biorefinery in Iowa will be one of the first such commercial scale facilities worldwide.

DuPont is naturally supportive of federal mandates for biofuel production, namely the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate, which has come under fire amidst a devastating drought that has deteriorated crops and helped to spiked corn prices.

“We understand the impact of the drought very well and we feel their (farmers) pain and we feel empathy for them,” Koninckx said. “I understand that situation. … The RFS is a visionary piece of legislation in that they described a specific vision for the future.”

Prior to the federal mandate, Brazil was the leader in biofuels, he said. Waiving federal mandates for biofuel production would send a signal to investors and Wall Street that supportive legislation is no longer solid, not to mention large companies such as DuPont have spent hundreds of millions in developing next generation fuels.

Chicken processors such as Mountaire Farms and Perdue, and legislators have been petitioning the EPA to waive the federal requirement in the face of an unforgiving drought and already pinched economy.

Waiving the requirement could create a drop in corn prices, used for poultry and other livestock feed, and ease financial pressures. A 30-day public comment period will end Oct. 11, on the controversial RFS mandate. The EPA then has 90 days to make a decision.