DuPont Industrial Biosciences has opened its cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada.
The company says when it reaches full capacity, the biorefinery will annually convert corn cobs, stalks and other waste left on fields after harvest into 30-million gallons of what is considered a "second generation" renewable fuel. Over the past decade, DuPont received more than $50 million in federal funds to bring its cellulosic technology to the marketplace.
During an opening celebration at the plant on Friday, elected officials including Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, used their remarks to rally support for the beleaguered Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. DuPont’s William Feehery says the company is already licensing the cellulosic technology in China and has talks underway in Europe.
"The interest in the United States is a little bit stalled," Feehery says. "I think the uncertainty in the RFS has caused some pause, or some concern about making these investments."
Grassley and U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) pledged their continued support of the RFS in Congress.
DuPont says the Iowa plant will provide a commercial-scale demonstration for potential investors. For now, the market for the fuel produced will be California, which has a low-carbon fuel standard in place.
For years stacks of baled corn stover have been sprouting up in Story County, with fresh ones coming in during the current harvest. DuPont’s Terraun Jones says he’s been impressed with the creativity of area farmers as they took up the company’s call for bales of the waste normally left on harvested fields.
"We're going to be able to harvest the material, while not compromising the soil and being able to grow the product," Jones said. "Then, we're going to take a year's worth of production, 375,000 tons, we're going to gather it in about four months and we're going to store it and we're going to bring it to the plant in a safe and sustainable way."
POET-DSM opened Iowa's first cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg last year.