The DuPont cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, will produce about 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Photo courtesy of DuPont.

The DuPont cellulosic ethanol facility, opening in Nevada, Iowa, on October 30, will be the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Director, Jonathan Male, alongside senior government officials, DuPont leaders and staff, and local farmers will attend the grand opening ceremony and plant tour.

The facility is expected to produce about 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corn stover that is harvested within a 30-mile radius of the site. Through a partnership between Proctor and Gamble and DuPont, some of the cellulosic ethanol from this plant will be used in a laundry detergent.

DuPont broke ground on this facility in 2012, although preparation for the building of this advanced biorefinery started in the early 2000s when it began working with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on biofuels technology. According to DuPont, the biorefinery has provided many job and financial opportunities for this rural area of the United States, such as employing 1,000 construction workers, obtaining corn stover from approximately 500 nearby farmers, hiring 85 employees to work at the plant, and using another 150 people to collect, transport, and store feedstock.

DOE has supported DuPont by funding key bioenergy conversion technologies and collaborating on research and development projects. Under a competitively selected DOE award, DuPont worked with the NREL to create improved biomass pretreatment and ethanol production technologies. Their collaboration focused on two key areas. In one area, the team worked on the development, optimization, and scale-up of Zymomonas mobilis—a bacterium that enhances the fermentation of biomass sugars—for production of biofuels. In another area, NREL supported DuPont in developing a mild ammonia pretreatment process suitable for corn stover residues. More than 10 joint DuPont-NREL U.S. patents were issued from the innovations developed in these two areas.

In total, DOE has contributed more than $51 million dollars to advance various technologies that helped bring DuPont’s new biorefinery to fruition. The completion of this biorefinery is a key milestone in the emerging production of cellulosic ethanol in the United States.