A full-scale cellulosic ethanol plant using corn stover feedstock should be in operation in central Iowa in less than two years. Groundbreaking for construction is planned for the second half of 2012, and DuPont through its Industrial Bioscience division leadership team has announced construction will take from 12 months to 18 months.
DuPont has announced the project with the confidence that this cellulosic ethanol plant will be the model for dozens more to be erected all across the Corn Belt within a short timeframe after this one proves itself.
Research into the corn stover quality, removal percentage from a field, harvesting method, storage system and impact on soil fertility and tilth has been underway for more than two years.
Plans and research were unveiled at a Pioneer media day at Johnston, Iowa, which I attended.
DuPont made its first investment in what became DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) that has now been renamed simply DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol (DCE). Steve Mirshak, global business director of DCE, claimed the company is ahead of others doing research.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of technology development across the country. There are many, many companies investing in how to develop the technology for cellulosic ethanol. We are there today,” Mirshak said.
He noted that the company was able to get where it is at today because of successes with a pre-commercial technology development corn stover and switchgrass research plant in Tennessee capable of producing 250,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol in a year.
The construction of the 27.5 million gallon per year plant at Nevada, Iowa, comes with cooperation and synergy of Lincolnway Energy, a corn ethanol production operation, that sold DuPont the land for its plant and will be involved in energy and infrastructure sharing including rail shipping. The byproduct from the cellulosic plant will be lignin (part of the stalk structure material) and syrup, both of which will be burned for energy.
“The combination of Pioneer and DuPont Industrial Bioscience and Iowa State University has been very, very important to understand the agronomical and sustainability impacts of stover removal. We have also seen a tremendous interest by producers in the area. We worked with about 50 growers in 2011, and we will expand that to about 150 growers in 2012,” Mirshak said.
Research in windrowing, baling, transporting, storing and grinding the stover has been part of the pre-construction research. The other big research relates to the amount of stover that can be removed and what that does favorably or negatively to a farmer’s soil.