DuPont zeros in on renewable energy sector

By Holly Jessen
Posted June 4, 2010, at 10:40 a.m. CST

Founded in 1802, DuPont was primarily an explosives company. Today, among the many other areas it does work in, the company is accelerating research and development and investments in the alternative energy sector. "Generating and storing renewable sources of energy will be the fastest growing sector in the energy market for the next 20 years," DuPont's Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Thomas M. Connelly told investors at the Credit Suisse Future of Energy Conference.

DuPont has more than $2 billion in sales serving alternative energy markets. That includes products such as biomaterials, fuel cell components, lightweight composites for transportation and energy-efficient materials, Connelly said.

The company has a joint venture with Tate & Lyle, to produce propanediol at the 60 MMgy ethanol plant in Loudon, Tenn. The corn-based product has the trademarked name Bio-PDO and can be used for industrial applications such as de-icing fluids and antifreeze, or in consumer applications such as cosmetics and personal care. The facility produces 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO and recently announced a 35 percent capacity expansion to meet increased demand.

In addition, it operates the DuPont Danisco cellulosic ethanol demonstration facility in Vonore, Tenn. Later this year, a joint venture to produce biobutanol in a demo facility in the U.K. is expected to commence operations.

Connelly also announced that DuPont has set the goal of $1 billion in revenue and $250 million in pre-tax earnings by 2015 in its applied biosciences business. To do this, the company plans to go for strong growth in the biofuels and biomaterials units. That includes products that range from apparel and carpeting made from renewable materials to vegetarian omega-3 nutritional supplements, as well as new technologies to deliver low-cost cellulosic ethanol and biobutanol biofuels.

Another expected area of growth is photovoltaics, or cells to convert solar energy to electricity. The company projects that sales in this industry will double this year. "Through investments in materials, technology development and manufacturing, DuPont is accelerating its ability to deliver innovations that will improve the lifetime and efficiency of photovoltaic modules," Connelly said.

The science-based business operates in about 80 countries. It offers products and services to many markets, including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation. For more information, see