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DOE funding paves the way for first commercial cellulosic ethanol refinery

Agriculture.com Staff 02/28/2007 @ 8:55am

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wednesday announced joint funding with Broin Companies in the development of a bio-refinery plant that will commercialize cellulosic ethanol technology developed by DuPont, according to DuPont company officials.

The DOE funding accelerates the development of a bio-refinery at Broin's Emmetsburg, Iowa, facility to 2009.

In January, President Bush toured DuPont's biofuels research, development and commercialization efforts and its cellulosic ethanol bio-refinery research program at the DuPont Experimental Station, the company's global R&D headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.

In 2003, the DOE provided a four-year, $19 million matching grant to DuPont to develop a technology package to produce cellulosic ethanol. DuPont chose corn stover as the target for its research because of the logistical advantages of harvesting, transporting and producing ethanol from this cellulosic feedstock.

DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. has provided significant market and agronomy insight throughout the project. Deere & Company is working with DuPont on corn stover collection and transportation logistics. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been a key partner in the development of the pretreatment and fermentation technology. Led by DuPont, the Integrated Corn-Based BioRefinery research program technology system includes:

  1. Pretreatment of corn stover to separate the lignin from the plant's cellulose backbone to provide access to the cellulose for further processing;
  2. An enzymatic process called saccharification to convert the cellulosic materials to fermentable sugars; and
  3. A novel technology developed to ferment the sugars to make high concentrations of cellulosic ethanol.

In addition, Michigan State University partnered with DuPont engineers to study the agriculture sustainability aspects of harvesting corn plants from the field in a comprehensive life cycle analysis. The results of this study are expected later this year. The Integrated BioRefinery technology system, licensed for use at Broin's Emmetsburg facility, increases the amount of ethanol produced per acre by using both corn grain and stover from the same land, DuPont officials say.

The first feedstock for the Emmetsburg operation will be corn cobs. In addition, the bio-refinery facility will utilize waste streams from the grain ethanol operations. The lignin that is separated away from the sugars during pretreatment will be used to provide power to both the grain ethanol and cellulose ethanol operations, greatly reducing the need for petroleum feedstocks to either facility.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wednesday announced joint funding with Broin Companies in the development of a bio-refinery plant that will commercialize cellulosic ethanol technology developed by DuPont, according to DuPont company officials.

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