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DuPont Closes Iowa Cellulosic Ethanol Facility, Puts Plant Up for Sale

Two years after its opening, DuPont Industrial Biosciences announced it will sell the company’s $225 million cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa. DuPont cited its merger with Dow as part of the reason for the decision to close and sell the plant.

“As part of DowDuPont’s intent to create a leading specialty products company, we are making a strategic shift in how we participate in the cellulosic biofuels market. While we still believe in the future of cellulosic biofuels, we have concluded it is in our long-term interest to find a strategic buyer for our technology including the Nevada, Iowa, biorefinery,” DuPont said in a statement Thursday.

Operations will shut down and 90 workers were let go, according to the Des Moines Register; a small crew is still in place to maintain the facility.

When the plant opened in 2015, it was touted as the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the country with the potential to produce 30 million gallons of ethanol a year from corn stover. 

Despite the move, DuPont says it will continue to be involved in the biofuels market.

“We will continue to participate in the overall biofuels market through specialty offerings, including biofuel enzymes and engineered yeast solutions that improve yield and productivity for biofuel producers. We plan to work closely with local, state, and federal partners to assure a smooth transition as we pursue the sale of the business. All affected employees will receive support services during this transition,” according to the DuPont statement.

Stover bales at the Nevada plant.
There have been signs that the plant wasn’t producing up to its potential. Last year, DuPont stopped collecting corn stover from farmers because the plant had run out of storage. 

“We just don’t have the capacity to harvest in 2016, and so we’ve notified our farmers that we’re going to set aside for the 2016 harvest year, and then we’ll need to come back in 2017 and begin to ramp up again,” said John Pieper, the corn stover and feed-stock supply chain development lead for DuPont, in an interview with the Ames Tribune in 2016

“We are off of our original estimates for start-up,” Pieper said in the interview. “So we’re off our schedule a little bit, but we’ve been moving forward steadily all the time.”

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