DuPont exec: Company to become renewables 'powerhouse' by 2015

By Kris Bevill | February 24, 2011

DuPont Applied BioSciences President Craig Binetti told attendees of a recent clean technology conference that DuPont expects the biofuels industry worldwide to grow by $25 billion in the next five years and it plans to contribute to the expansion through its cellulosic ethanol and biobutanol ventures.

“While ethanol and biobutanol each have the potential to add value to the global biofuels market, a three-component blend of ethanol-biobutanol-gasoline has significant advantages as well,” Binetti said. “We are positioning ourselves so we are advantaged when the rapid growth occurs in advanced renewable fuels over the next decade.”

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC was created several years ago as a joint venture between Dupont and enzyme and specialty food ingredient manufacturer Danisco to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology. In January, DuPont announced plans to purchase Danisco for nearly $6 billion. DDCE recently received a $9 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund Board to build its first 25 MMgy commercial-scale facility, dubbed Project Blackhawk, in one of two Iowa counties.

Story County is located in the central part of the state and includes the city of Ames as well as Iowa State University and at least one ethanol production facility—a 55 MMgy plant in Nevada operated by Lincolnway Energy LLC. Webster County is also located in the center of the state and is home to Valero Renewable Fuels LLC’s 110 MMgy in Fort Dodge and the 69 MMgy Poet Biorefining plant in Gowrie. DDCE has previously stated that its commercial plant may be co-located with an existing corn ethanol producer, but feedstock proximity is the No. 1 criteria. The company is expected to announce its final location decision by summer and plans to be operational by March 2014.

Binetti said DDCE’s commercialization model includes a comprehensive licensing program which will include licensed technology, plant design, start-up, training and ongoing technical support. The company has ambitious plans to take a leadership role in the build-out of the cellulosic ethanol industry. “Globally, approximately 600 new plants will be required in the next decade to meet the anticipated global demand for cellulosic biofuel, and we expect a significant share of these will use DDCE technology,” he said.

DuPont is also focusing on commercializing biobutanol production technology as a retrofit to existing grain-based plants through a joint venture with BP known as Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC. Binetti said biobutanol is an advantageous fuel because it can be produced from renewable resources as easily as ethanol, but can also be transported through existing infrastructure.

Explaining why Butamax is focused on initially commercializing its technology at existing ethanol facilities, Binetti pointed out that there are currently more than 200 grain-based ethanol plants and more than 400 sugarcane-based ethanol plants worldwide. “We are meeting the growing demand for reducing dependence on fossil fuels by harnessing the full innovation capabilities of our scientists and partners,” he said. “This creates a powerhouse of industrial biotechnology and clean technology businesses with a goal of generating $1 billion in revenues and more than $250 million in earnings by 2015 from our extensive portfolio of renewable materials and fuels technologies.”