Feeding the Advanced Biorefinery: Energy Crops

Creating Cellulosic Ethanol from Energy Crops

DuPont, in partnership with Genera Energy and the University of Tennessee, is working with farmers to produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other energy crops.

The high cellulose content of switchgrass, a perennial grass native to North America, makes it an ideal feedstock for ethanol production.

Switchgrass yields range from four to 12 tons per acre throughout the southeast and eastern regions of the United States, depending on soil and weather conditions. Advanced varieties are expected to have higher yields.

One ton of switchgrass yields approximately 100 gallons of ethanol. The estimated potential of energy-dedicated switchgrass crops in the United States is more than six billion gallons per year.

Potential for Commercial Production

DuPont and Genera Energy are researching ways to make cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other energy crops at a demonstration-scale biorefinery at Vonore, Tennessee. More than 60 area growers have contracted with DuPont to grow switchgrass, a plant native to Tennessee.

Other Energy Crops

As the demand increases for reducing the dependency on fossil fuels, DuPont is leading the way for cellulosic ethanol to be developed more efficiently and sustainably.  These solutions encompass partnering with local growers and agronomic experts to develop sustainable biomass collection practices and developing a licensable, full-scale cellulosic ethanol plant design which can be built in multiple regions with multiple feedstock options. Examples of biomass include corn-stover, bagasse, wheat straw, certain types of sorghum, and other non-food crops.