Update from DuPont on its Nevada project – labor shortages, new ethanol marketer deal

Source: By Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest • Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2014

With the Abengoa and POET-DSM openings behind us, time to look ahead to the next one: DuPont’s 30 million gallon plant in Nevada, Iowa. We had been expecting mechanical completion by New Year’s — that’s slipped back into Q1, with labor shortages in Iowa dragging out the timeline several weeks. As a result — shortages of pipe fitters and millwrights are biting into timelines.

Last week, the Associated General Contractors of America reported that “Most construction firms report they are having trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots as the industry recovers from its years-long downturn”. According to the survey, 84 percent of contractors in the Midwest report having a hard time filling craft worker positions — on site construction jobs including carpenters, equipment operators and laborers.

The ironic culprit? The boom in US domestic energy production, including ethanol, is driving down energy prices and spurring a revival in US manufacturing, and plant construction.

“We continue to make progress on our Nevada, Iowa biorefinery and expect mechanical completion in Q1 of 2015,” DuPont’s Business Director for Biofuels Jan Koninckx told The Digest, “followed by a commissioning period that will take several months as we ensure safety, quality and performance to meet our rigorous standards.”

We did ask about any delays relating to design changes or core technology — there’s been no rumbling about that, but it’s been seen at other projects. “Absolutely, positively not,” said Koninckx, closing the door on that one.

What about plans for a second plant — we had to ask? “DuPont is in active discussions around the world with potential licensees,” Koninckx said, “and recently announced business developments that underscore market demand for cellulosic ethanol and confidence in DuPont’s technology.”

Offtake – what’s up there? “We are also making progress in executing our business model to license cellulosic technology and recently hired veteran ethanol marketer Murex, to market the cellulosic ethanol from our Nevada facility.”

The Digest’s Take: we don’t really care when the baby arrives, we would like a healthy one. Sounds like the Doctor DuPont is all over it.