DuPont Breaks Ground on Commercial Biofuel Facility

by | Dec 3, 2012

DuPont has broken ground on its cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, which the company expects to generate 30 million gallons of fuel a year from corn stalks and leaves.

Slated for completion in mid-2014, this more than $200 million facility will be among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world, according to DuPont. The facility will require a capital investment of about $7 per gallon of annual capacity.

DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of corn stover per year to the Nevada facility. The stover will be collected from a radius of about 30 miles and harvested off of 190,000 acres.

An International Organization for Standardization (ISO) compliant, peer-reviewed life cycle assessment of the DuPont biorefinery and supply chain indicates a potential greater than 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, the company says.

This GHG reduction is enabled by use of cellulosic co-products as a source of renewable energy. The DuPont biorefinery co-product is a material that can displace coal in facilities currently burning this fossil fuel.

According to DuPont, regional businesses and academic institutions have already indicated interest in exploring the potential use of the renewable co-products to replace portions of their coal-fired operations.

Lincolnway Energy is one of these companies. The grain ethanol facility is adjacent to the DuPont construction site; chairman Jeff Taylor says replacing Lincolnway Energy’s fossil fuels with cellulosic ethanol co-product to generate heat and power “makes great sense.” Plus, because it’s generated next door, it would reduce the transportation costs of shipping coal cars about a thousand miles.

In other biofuel news, a study published in the journal Energy & Fuels. found that biodiesel derived from oleaginous microbes (microalgae, yeast and bacteria) is an effective substitute for both petroleum diesel and biodiesel produced from plant oils.

A team of researchers from Utah State University examined engine performance and emissions for biodiesel produced from the microalgae Chaetoceros gracilis, the yeast Cryptococcus curvatus and the bacterium Rhodococcus opacus, comparing these to petroleum diesel #2 and commercial biodiesel from soybeans.

While diesel #2 delivered the highest power output (8.5 hp) in engine tests, soybean biodiesel registered 8.2 hp with microbial fuel close behind. Bacterial biodiesel had the lowest power output (7.8 hp), which still puts it at 92 percent and 95 percent of the output achieved with diesel #2 and soybean biodiesel, respectively.

Analysis of exhaust emissions (hydrocarbon, CO, CO2, O2, and NOx) showed that all biofuels produced significantly less CO and hydrocarbon than petroleum diesel. Microalgae biodiesel was found to have the lowest NOx output.

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