DuPont and Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, are forming a 50-50 global joint venture—DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC—to develop and commercialize a low-cost technology solution for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
The partners plan an initial three-year investment of US$140 million, which will initially target corn stover and sugar cane bagasse. Future targets include multiple ligno-cellulosic feedstocks including wheat straw, a variety of energy crops and other biomass sources.
The parent companies will license their combined existing intellectual property and patents related to cellulosic ethanol. The goal is to maximize efficiency and lower the overall system cost to produce a gallon of ethanol from cellulosic materials by optimizing the process steps into a single integrated technology solution.
The integration of the partners’ individual technology platforms will combine:
A differentiated pretreatment process developed by DuPont through its collaboration with the US Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that allows for reduced capital costs. The process is a proprietary mild alkaline process that allows for lower cost of capital than other pretreatments. Work is ongoing to optimize this pretreatment technology for other cellulosic feedstocks.;
Enzyme technologies and production platforms enabling high biomass-to-sugars conversion rates developed by Genencor. Genencor has developed enzyme complexes that deliver a 30-fold decrease in enzyme costs.
A proprietary ethanologen, also developed through the DuPont-NREL collaboration, based on Zymomonas mobilis. This ethanologen has the ability to convert sugars contained in the feedstock into high yields of ethanol with fewer byproducts, and;
The companies’ joint engineering capabilities in process integration and facility design.
In the United States, the joint venture will scale up an optimized technology package for corn cobs from integrating the proprietary DuPont pretreatment and ethanologen technologies with the innovative enzyme technology of Genencor, while DuPont continues to analyze the collection and storage of cellulosic feedstocks.
The global joint venture expects its first pilot plant to be operational in the United States in 2009, and its first commercial-scale demonstration facility to be operational within the next three years. The joint venture will be headquartered in the United States and will be formed after receipt of required regulatory approvals.
The joint venture will license its technology package directly to ethanol producers for deployment in the United States and around the world, as well as through the establishment of regional cellulosic ethanol affiliates.
The regional ethanol affiliates will invest in equity interests with strategic partners, including ethanol producers and energy companies, to enable the rapid deployment of the joint venture’s cellulosic ethanol technology at commercial scale. The joint venture’s technology package can be used both as a “bolt-on” to an existing ethanol plant—expanding its capacity to accept cellulosic feedstocks—or as the design basis for a stand-alone cellulosic ethanol facility. The joint venture expects to enable production of commercial volumes of cellulosic ethanol by 2012.
Since 2000, the US Department of Energy has supported the efforts of DuPont and Genencor through multiple grants totaling more than $60 million for the development of pretreatment processes, advanced ethanol conversion organisms and improved enzymes.
DuPont and Genencor have a history of successful collaboration. In 1995 the companies partnered to develop the fermentation biocatalyst that produces Bio-PDO propanediol, one of the first commercial-scale industrial applications of metabolic engineering designed to make a 100% renewably sourced material from corn starch. Today, the product is manufactured by DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, LLC in Loudon, Tennessee. (Earlier post.)