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VERBIO to acquire DuPont’s Nevada, Iowa cellulosic ethanol plant; RNG production

DuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) and VERBIO North America Corporation (VNA), the US subsidiary of leading German bioenergy producer VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergie AG (VERBIO), have reached terms for VNA to acquire DuPont’s Nevada, Iowa-based cellulosic ethanol plant and a portion of its corn stover inventory.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to occur in November. VNA intends to install facilities to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) made from corn stover and other cellulosic crop residues at the site.

This will be VERBIO’s third production facility devoted to this cellulosic technology—in 2014, the company commissioned its first facility in Schwedt, Germany, and its second facility in Pinnow, Germany is currently being commissioned.

VERBIO is a leading manufacturer in the German biomethane and biofuels market, running four production facilities producing around 27 million gallons of RNG, 140 million gallons of biodiesel and 87 million gallons of ethanol per year. The company focuses on developing and installing new technologies to produce first and second generation biofuels from biomass and crop residues.

The DuPont facility in Nevada, Iowa offers excellent infrastructure to construct our first RNG facility outside Germany. We can use part of the installed equipment for our production and there is a solid base of local farmers from whom to procure the raw materials. Once the plant is in operation, it offers the Nevada, IA community new agricultural revenue streams, new employment opportunities and new sources of tax revenues.

—Claus Sauter, CEO of VERBIO

Following its merger with Dow in 2017, DuPont announced a strategic shift within the cellulosic biofuels market and began to seek a buyer for the biorefinery. DuPont continues to participate in the overall biofuels market through specialty offerings, including both first- and second-generation biofuel enzymes and engineered yeast solutions that improve yield and productivity for biofuel producers.

VNA is working on plans to start construction of the RNG plant in spring 2019 and begin commercial production of renewable transportation fuel by summer 2020.



Somehow I missed the announcement of the plant.

The 2015 DuPont announcement states that the plant is designed to convert 375,000 tons of stover into 30 million gallons of ethanol per year.  That is 80 gallons per ton.  As ethanol has a standard density of 0.789, that's a yield of 239 kg per ton, which is 23.9% yield if metric tons or 26.3% if short tons.

Carbon efficiency:  EtOH contains 52% carbon by weight, so the 239 kg contains 124.7 kg of carbon.  Dry vegetable matter is about 45% carbon by weight, so the carbon efficiency is about 31% at best (27.7% if metric tons).  The rest of the carbon in the feedstock winds up as byproducts or vented as CO2.

This is not a level of efficiency sufficient to be serious competition for fossil fuels.  One suspects that the plant did not perform as advertised either.  No wonder it is being converted to make bio-methane instead.

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