DuPont Industrial Biosciences: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 17, 2014 |

Two years ago, DuPont purchased Danisco and its Genencor unit and added their expertise into a new unit: DuPont Industrial Biosciences. This integration allows us to optimize DuPont’s bioscience technology and commercialization capabilities with Genencor’s biofuel enzyme technology.

DuPont is committed to being a part of the solution to develop renewably sourced biofuels. For close to ten years, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and put our best researchers to work to find answers to the pressing global issue of increased need for food, feed and fuel. We have developed a three-part strategy to deliver these new technologies to the growing biofuels market to help biofuels become more competitive with petroleum. The strategy includes:
(1)improving existing ethanol production through differentiated agriculture seed products and crop protection solutions as well as through improved bioprocessing aids and enzymes that allow animals to get the most out of valuable ethanol co-products;
(2) developing, commercializing, and licensing new technologies to allow conversion of cellulose to ethanol; and
(3) developing and supplying advanced biofuels, such as biobutanol, a performance drop-in fuel easily integrated with the existing liquid fuel system.

In addition, as part of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, DuPont Pioneer helps farmers by delivering high-yielding products, supported with proven expertise and innovative services to meet growing demand from the biofuels industry. Pioneer offers more than 230 High Total Fermentable (HTF) ethanol hybrids that increase the fermentable starch content of corn plants for greater outputs. Many ethanol hybrids contain Herculex® insect protection traits to reduce insect damage to grain and help prevent molds and mycotoxins. This helps ensure a consistent supply of high-yielding, high-quality grain. DuPont Crop Protection further helps growers produce and maximize the yield and quality of biofeedstocks including sugarcane and corn with solutions that help reduce weeds and control insect and disease.


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The Situation

DuPont is seeking partners for joint ventures for cellulosic ethanol production, including entities from the U.S., China, Brazil, Europe, and Southeast Asia. While potential partners remained unnamed, business director for biorefineries Jan Koninckx has indicated that interested parties include fuel companies and agribusinesses. “DuPont would take a minority stake and…we would basically take an active role in setting production up” in the joint ventures furthered Koninckx. The company is currently investing more than $200 million to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. Licensing agreements would include equipment and DuPont’s plant design, and DuPont would supply the enzymes needed to produce the fuel, Mr. Koninckx said.

In November 2012, DuPont broke ground on its $200 million, 30 million gallon cellulosic biofuels facility in Nevada, Iowa. Expected to be completed in mid-2014, the new facility produce cellulosic ethanol from corn stover. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was on hand to celebrate the official beginning of construction on the facility, adjacent to the Lincolnway Energy grain ethanol plant.

“This site in Nevada is the next critical step in our cellulosic ethanol journey. We look forward to bringing these advanced technologies online, creating local jobs and helping to deliver clean, sustainable energy,” said Governor Branstad.

The economic impact of the project will range far beyond its effect on energy independence. To supply the corn stover for its plant, DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of stover per year into the Nevada facility. If stover is priced at $50-$60 per ton, that will generate $1.75-$22.5 million in additional income in a 30 mile radius around the new facility, where stover will be harvested off of 190,000 acres.

In addition to the estimated 60 full-time plant operations jobs, there will be over 150 individuals involved in the collection, stacking, transportation and storage of the stover feedstock seasonally during each harvest.

Major Investors


3 Top Milestones for 2009-13:

1. The launch of ACCELLERASE® TRIO™ in 2011 (and see product description below)

2. DuPont’s 250,000 gpy Cellulosic Ethanol demonstration plant in Vonore, Tennessee producing ethanol from corn stover and generating key data for commercial production (see details below) psychoanalyze

3. The Success of the DuPont Stover Harvest Collection Project (and collaboration description below)

In April, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and DuPont signed an agreement on Friday  to establish guidelines for corn stover collection. The agreement directs the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service to work with DuPont and Iowan farmers for give years to set standards for the percentage of stover that can be collected without diminishing soil quality. DuPont’s $200M plant will use 375,000 tons of stover annually when it opens in 2014.

In November, DuPont announced it has gained more than one point in North America corn market share for its Pioneer seed business and strong harvest results in 2013.

“Pioneer brand products, coupled with our industry-leading agronomic and technical support, delivered strong yield performance again on growers’ farms this year, validating the more than one point gain we achieved in North America corn market share in 2013 based upon the November U.S. Department of Agriculture acreage report,” said Paul E. Schickler, Dupont Pioneer President.

“This year’s harvest results demonstrate the strength of our product lineup with leading product offerings including Pioneer brand Optimum AQUAmax corn products, Optimum AcreMax insect control products and new T Series soybeans.”

In December, Arcadia Biosciences and DuPont Pioneer announced their intention to collaborate to develop enabling technology to help manage pollen flow in sorghum. This technology will help facilitate the development and deployment of agronomic and quality traits in the crop.

Under the agreement, Arcadia receives exclusive global rights to develop specified Pioneer technology for use in grain, forage, sweet, and biofuel sorghum types. The potential exists for numerous agronomic performance and quality traits to be developed and commercialized in sorghum. This collaboration between Arcadia and Pioneer is focused on developing core technology that will enable the deployment of such traits.

3 Major Milestone Goals for 2014-16:

1. Commercializing cellulosic ethanol through the planned DuPont cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa (see below).

2. The licensing of the cellulosic ethanol technology produced at the DuPont Nevada, Iowa biorefinery

3. BioIsoprene™ Monomer: DuPont builds relationships to enable further pilot and commercial development of BioIsoprene™ monomer, to be used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber for tires and the potential for various other applications, such as specialty elastomers and adhesives .

Business Model (e.g. owner-operator, technology licensor, fee-based industry supplier, investor):
• Merchant enzyme supplier to ethanol/biofuel industry
• Integrated solutions provider in cellulosic ethanol industry through DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Program
Competitive Edge(s):

DuPont has a unique position in the industry because its offerings span farm, feed and fuel. For example, we are able to build on Genencor’s expertise in designing and operating cell factories, leverage Pioneer’s knowledge of production agriculture and relationship with growers, and apply DuPont’s capabilities in engineering and advanced materials.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances:

DuPont has a 50/50 joint venture with BP Biofuels called Butamax™ Advanced Biofuels which is working to develop and commercialize biobutanol. Isobutanol is a molecule that is similar to gasoline, and can be readily dropped into the current liquid transportation infrastructure, without changes to the refiner or distribution. Biobutanol is deployed through retrofit of current ethanol facilities, so does not require building entirely new facilities. It also can be blended at a higher rate than ethanol into gasoline under current regulations. So far in 2012, Butamax has signed up seven existing ethanol producers with a total of 11 plants for its early adopters program to convert their facilities to biobutanol production. Butamax will begin retrofit of the first facility in 2013.

DuPont also has a partnership with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Through this collaboration, DuPont and Goodyear have been developing a first of its kind biobased process to produce isoprene (BioIsoprene™) from renewable raw materials.

DuPont’s Stover Harvest Collection Project involves collaboration with farmers, DuPont Pioneer biomass supply chain experts and Iowa State University, as well as custom harvesters and equipment manufacturers. It is focused on standardizing equipment and techniques for collection, transport, storage and pre-processing of stover, while ensuring stewardship of farms and achieving economics of the biorefinery. In 2010, DuPont began the project by partnering with six leading Iowa corn growers and conducting a pilot-scale stover harvest on 2,500 acres. The project has grown to partnering with more than 100 corn growers for 2012 and harvesting approximately 25,000 acres of stover, representing about one seventh of our first biorefinery’s annual commercial feedstock requirement.

Stage: (Bench, pilot, demonstration, commercial)

DuPont Industrial Biosciences currently operates a demonstration facility in Vonore, Tenn., which is producing cellulosic ethanol from stover and is generating data for commercial production.

The next step is the construction and operation of our commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa. DuPont has broken ground on the facility, which has a 12-18 month build out and is expected to be mechanically complete in 2014. Once completed, this will be one of the first commercial scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world and will generate 28 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels from corn stover (corn residues, including cobs, stalks, leaves).

DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol is also currently working with local farmers to build and scale up the supply chain for this biorefinery. DuPont’s Stover Harvest Collection Project involves collaboration with farmers, DuPont Pioneer biomass supply chain experts and Iowa State University, as well as custom harvesters and equipment manufacturers. It is focused on standardizing equipment and techniques for collection, transport, storage and pre-processing of stover, while ensuring stewardship of farms and achieving economics of the biorefinery.

Company website



Project information


Vonore, Tennessee

Materials or products produced:

Currently producing cellulosic ethanol from corn stover and is generating data for commercial production (see below for details). Generating data on switchgrass in 2012-13.


Demonstration facility that has been generating the data necessary to finalize the integrated scale-up technology for commercial production, including:

• Confirmed economics of biomass delivery with 2011 field stover harvest data
• Engineering and front-end loading underway for planned Nevada, Iowa site
• Deployment strategy which includes commercial operation, licensing model and merchant enzymes

Year, month in service: (planned or projected)

Operating since 2009

Status: (Open, Under Construction, Planned)

Open and used as a demonstration facility


Corn stover and energy crops such as switchgrass



DuPont’s first cellulosic ethanol biorefinery site will be strategically located next to Lincolnway Energy, a corn grain ethanol processor in Nevada, Iowa.

Materials or products produced:

Cellulosic ethanol will be the main product produced. Lignin will be DuPont’s primary co-product from the Nevada plant, and this material is targeted to be recycled on-site to provide low-cost, sustainable process energy for our biorefinery, as well as for the neighboring corn grain ethanol plant.

Capacity: (Millions of US gallons per years)

28 million gallons produced annually

Year, month in service: (planned or projected)

Groundbreaking planned for late 2012; with 12-18 month construction period.

Status: (Open, Under Construction, Planned)

Planned. DuPont announced in May 2012 that it has contracted with Fagen, Inc., to build the Iowa cellulosic ethanol plant. Fagen is a proven biofuels engineering, procurement and construction contractor that has built more ethanol plants in the United States than any other company.


Corn stover (residues, including corn stalks, cobs and leaves).


Product information


Product Brand Name:


Product Description:

A fermentation additive that helps today’s ethanol producers achieve greater production efficiencies and lower costs without the use of antibiotics. FermaSure® enables higher, more efficient ethanol yields, fewer process interruptions and improved fermentation stability. DuPont™ FermaSure® also integrates easily, helping to keep the fermentation process footprint small.

Product Applications:

DuPont FermaSure® is the next generation of fermentation additives to decrease antibiotic residue and increase ethanol fermentation rate and efficiency without the use of antibiotics.
Bacterial contamination of fermentation processes decreases ethanol yield by competing with yeast for glucose and other nutrients, which ultimately form organic acids that can stress or kill the yeast and significantly decrease overall ethanol yield and batch profitability.

The product selectively and rapidly attacks the bacteria that are harmful in the fermentation cycle without harming the yeast, enzymes, or other desirable mash components. FermaSure® works to selectively limit the accumulation of lactic and acetic acids, enabling the yeast to produce ethanol faster and more efficiently.

Unique Features: .

Unlike other fermentation additives, FermaSure® can be shipped and stored for long periods of time, and is available in drum, tote or bulk quantities. It is robust in its ability to eliminate variation due to bacteria growth and provide productivity improvements due to additional yield and faster rate of fermentation.



Product Brand Name:


Product Description:

Together with The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, we are co-developing an integrated process to manufacture an alternative to petroleum-based isoprene at industrial scale. The BioIsoprene™ monomer will enable Goodyear to produce high quality synthetic rubber for tires without dependence on petroleum-based feedstock. As the BioIsoprene™ monomer is produced from renewable raw materials, manufacturers in many industries will be able to count on a reliable, consistent supply that is not subject to fluctuating oil prices.
Product Applications:

The BioIsoprene™ monomer creates tremendous opportunities for growth across a wide range of industrial applications – from adhesives and specialty elastomers and surgical gloves, to advanced transportation and jet fuels.

Unique Features:

Unlike other biobased systems to produce biochemicals, the BioIsoprene™ product is produced as a gas-phase product which is released as soon as it is produced into the vapor phase of the reactor without any noticeable negative physical or inhibitory impacts on the biological host. Potential benefits of the gas-phase nature of the product include: (a) reduction and/or elimination of feedback inhibition by the isoprene product on further synthesis; (b) efficient recovery and purification of polymer-grade BioIsoprene™ product from the fermentation broth and (c) possibility to use crude, low cost feedstocks.


Product Brand Name:

Accellerase® TRIO™

Product Description:

Accellerase® TRIO™ is the most recent breakthrough in DuPont’s award-winning Accellerase® enzyme complex product line, and has made headlines for reducing dose and cost in the pursuit of cellulosic ethanol from non-food feedstocks.

Product Applications:

Accellerase® TRIO™ is an enzyme complex designed specifically for use in the lignocellulosic biorefinery industries producing renewable fuels and chemicals. Lignocellulosic material is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose, and beta-glucans which are associated with each other and also with lignin, pectins, proteins, starch, and lipids.

Unique Features:

This product allows for a low enzyme dosage to produce ethanol, helping to improve the economics of cellulosic biofuels production. DuPont Industrial Biosciences has improved the effectiveness of converting biomass into sugars, a critical step in the production of cellulosic ethanol. With the Accellerase® TRIO™ complex, DuPont provides a combined “cocktail” of enzymes all in one product to breakdown the glucan (C6) and xylan (C5) in the biomass feedstock into fermentable sugars, thus increasing the ethanol yield per unit of feedstock.

Feedstocks and bio-based content:

Accellerase Trio is compatible with a variety of feedstocks, including switchgrass, wheat straw and corn stover.

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