DuPont seeks joint ventures on cellulosic ethanol
By OWEN FLETCHER
Chemical giant DuPont is seeking partners for joint ventures in the production of cellulosic ethanol, a next-generation biofuel, a DuPont official said.
"DuPont would take a minority stake and... we would basically take an active role in setting production up" in the joint ventures, which the company is discussing with parties in the US, Southeast Asia, China, Brazil and Europe, Jan Koninckx, DuPont's business director for biorefineries, said in an interview this week.
He declined to name potential partners but said interested parties include fuel companies and agribusinesses.
Ethanol made from corn kernels drove the expansion of the US ethanol industry starting in the mid-2000s, as a federal mandate required increasing amounts of the biofuel to be blended into motor fuel.
Ethanol producers at the time hoped future growth could be driven by cellulosic ethanol, made from other biomass such as the stalks of corn plants, since the next-generation fuel satisfies another part of the federal renewable fuels mandate. But development of cellulosic ethanol has lagged the pace once expected, and little of it is now being produced.
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont is investing more than $200 million to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, that will produce ethanol from corn-plant residue left in fields after farmers harvest their grain. DuPont expects the facility to open next year.
The plant will be profitable based on its production of 30 million gal/year of ethanol, but it is also meant to demonstrate the use at full scale of DuPont's cellulosic production methods, Mr. Koninckx said. DuPont will seek further revenue from licensing or partnerships.
Licensing agreements would include equipment and DuPont's plant design, and DuPont would supply the enzymes needed to produce the fuel, Mr. Koninckx said.
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