DuPont, New Tianlong Industry ink pact to bring cellulosic biofuels to China

July 16, 2015 |

Jilin-China30 Mgy plant envisioned, expected to be commissioned before the decade’s end. First for China and DuPont.

In China, DuPont and Jilin Province New Tianlong Industry Co. announced a licensing agreement to begin the development of China’s largest cellulosic ethanol facility.

Like this week’s Pluto fly-by, China’s Jilin province may feel like a long ways away for a lot of people, but it’s a big, big deal. So, shift your chair around a bit, to simulate, say, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, to put you in the mood.

Dizzy? Clutching for hand-holds? Good, let’s explore this news from China’s far north-east.

The project and New Tianlong Industry

Signing Ceremony of Cellulosic Ethanol Project Collaboration Agreements between DuPont and Jilin Province New Tianlong Industry Co. Ltd. (NTL) Signers: Jan Koninckx (DuPont), Mr. SUN Guojing (NTL)

Signing Ceremony of Cellulosic Ethanol Project Collaboration Agreements between DuPont and Jilin Province New Tianlong Industry Co. Ltd. (NTL) Signers: Jan Koninckx (DuPont), Mr. SUN Guojing (NTL)

The facility will be located in Siping City, Jilin Province, China. The agreement calls for NTL to license DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol technology and use DuPont Accellerase enzymes, to produce renewable biofuel from the leftover biomass on Jilin Province’s corn farms. NTL is working to secure the necessary government approvals and government support confirmation for this agreement.

The company currently produces 160,000 tons of grain-based alcohol products, for consumable and industrial markets, as well as 100,000 tons of dried distillers grains and corn oil.

Capacity and timeline

“In essence, in terms of capacity it’s a copy of our Nevada project,” DuPont biofuels business head Jan Koninckx told The Digest, “which is 80 kilotons or 30 million gallons, and it’s the same technology. [NTL] are very familiar with what we do [in Nevada], and in Tennessee.”

Timing? “It is generally what you expect — 2 years to build a plant and then some time to plan. As a first for China, there is some additional work with and for the various municipal, provincial and national levels — so it is hard to speculate on exact dates. They have the site and feedstock, and a committed municipality and county.” Our expectation in Digestville, think 2018-2019.

Changes in the design. Essentially, expect a version of the Nevada plant. “When you license,” Koninckx noted, “the licensee gets to design and build, so there are always going to be improvements that are developed, but we see them in engineering rather than on the science side.”

Making a project work in China: what’s similar, what’s different?

“Over the years, we ran our own stover trials ourselves in China, not because we thought we would build a plant, but we wanted to gain the understanding. And, agriculture in China is quite diverse, some is just as modern as anywhere, some is more typical of what you would find in the 1950s. Interestingly, if you have never been to Jilin province, it looks, as you drive around, like Iowa, Eastern Nebrasks or Illinois. There’s a lot of corn grown here.

The key difference? “In China, corn is picked and harvested with the cob,” Koninckx said, “so there is a step where the cob and the stalk get separated. It offers us an opportunity we don’t have in the US, you can tun how much cob you put in, and cob is easier to control.”

Was China expected to be among the first locations for licensed projects? “Definitely,” said Konickx. “Our Macedonia and China projects confirms what we have been thinking, that if we license to other people, it will reach the market faster and at scale than if we were to build plants. What we think is possible is based very much on other parts of the world, like China, and that the first major license is here is less a surprise than a confirmation.”

The big deal: that billion-gallon China biofuels market tipped in China’s economic plan

Combining NTI’s ethanol production expertise with processing technology, technical support and world-class biocatalysts supplied by DuPont, NTL will be able to produce homegrown, cellulosic renewable fuel for the rapidly growing Chinese liquid biofuel market, which is projected to exceed 5 million metric tons per year (1.7 billion gallons per year) by 2020.

An official signing ceremony took place in Changchun with representatives of both companies in attendance. Also in attendance at the ceremony were Siping City Secretary LIU Xijie and Lishu County Secretary SUN Yanjun. “This project is significant for local economic development and the launch of the clean-energy industry in the region and enjoys the full support from the local government,” said LIU Xijie.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“As we bring online the largest and most sophisticated cellulosic facility in the world in Iowa, we are simultaneously working with leaders who share the same vision of producing the next generation of clean renewable fuels in their region,” said Koninckx. “We are honored to have found such a strong partner in NTL. The company’s reputation for producing world-class corn grain ethanol makes it a superior candidate to put DuPont’s advanced technology to work to realize the additional economic and environmental benefits of cellulosic biofuel in China.”

“With its history of scientific innovation, collaboration and commitment to the ethanol industry, DuPont is an ideal partner for New Tianlong in our quest to bring the cleanest renewable fuel on the planet to China,” said SUN Guojing, general manager of NTL. “This project will augment our current excellent grade ethanol offerings and business and will make NTL the preeminent biofuel product supplier in China.”


The Backstory

The DuPont 8-Slide Guide

Intrigued by DuPont’s progress, but in a rush? Here’s a 8-slide visual guide to the story.


The DuPont Industrial Biosciences 5-Minute Guide

The background on all that DuPont is up to — projects, technology, strategy, and “The Situation”? It’s all right here.

Special China Report: 10 Top Advanced Bioeconomy Stories in China and Taiwan

The DuPont announce rocketed to the top of our ranking of the top 10 news stories out of China and Taiwan this year. What are the other 9 mega-trendy storylines – aviation fuels, chemicals and distillers grains, projects in the works, and vital sector data — that’s all here in our Special Report.

The DuPont first commercial plant in Nevada, Iowa

Pictures, project description and background on the technology, all here.

DuPont's cellulosic biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa — nearing completion of construction at the time of this photo in early 2015

DuPont’s cellulosic biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa — nearing completion of construction at the time of this photo in early 2015

See it Now: The DuPont Industrial Bioscoences 4-Minute Video

Here’s a terrific 4-minute intro to the world of DuPont — food, fiber, feed and fuels.

BD TS 071715 DuPont video


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