Sustainable Innovation in Biofuels

Sustainable Innovation in Biofuels

The Stover Supply Chain team is establishing best practices for safe, cost-effective and sustainable corn stover collection to supply commercial cellulosic bio refineries, which will create new jobs, meet global demands for sustainable, renewably sourced fuel, while offering value-added opportunities to farmers and supporting sectors.

The future of products (ethanol) fermented from industrial sugars derived from cellulose begins with the creation of a feedstock supply chain. Agricultural is an obvious first choice for cellulose feedstock. The downside of this material’s availability is there is no established supply chain for it. Further, the current supply chain for corn grain has successfully developed processes for in-field disposal of stover as a waste material. These processes directly oppose its collection as a by-product.

The stover feedstock supply chain team has successfully built a process which has currently attracted 285 farmers and 119,000 acres. The team’s employed a broad range of tactics ranging from farmer education on the value of partial stover removal to collaboration with the U.S. Government and agricultural equipment manufacturers. The process includes transportation and storage strategies that protect feedstocks from deterioration or loss and provide on-time delivery to the plant. During the 2014 harvest operation a total of 23,500 hours were worked during an 8 week period without a recordable injury. This safety score is a result of employees and contractors working hand in hand to focus on safe agricultural operations. The corn stover feedstock supply chain team has driven down delivered-to-plant (estimated) costs by 30% to current operational levels with 3-4 year plans for further cost reduction. The harvested stover will be the feedstock for the Nevada Site Cellulosic Ethanol Plant. Now operational, Nevada is the largest cellulosic ethanol facility in the world, producing 30 MGPY.

This project is critical for the successful implementation of the DuPont Advanced Biofuels strategy, as the work done for the Nevada plant will directly apply to additional plants to be built by DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol licensees and enzyme customers. Estimated 2019 revenues of $250-300 million globally and more than double that by 2024.

For farmers, this project brings a new value opportunity. It is expected that at scale direct value to farmers will be ~$7.5 million annually. Participating farmers are reporting several benefits of the stover harvest, including improved corn yields, better soil conditioning from improved residue management, and reduced cost from reduced-tillage practices and overall an increase in revenue per acre which could add more than an additional $10 million in annual benefits.

For the environment, the life cycle assessment conducted on the “well-to-wheel” footprint of our cellulosic ethanol demonstrated a drastically reduced carbon footprint relative to conventional gasoline or even corn ethanol. As a result, our CE fuel meets the mark for "advanced biofuels" status under the US RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard).