The Race Is On

How two cellulosic ethanol projects are coming closer to breaking ground
By Bryan Sims | December 02, 2010

While there may be several cellulosic ethanol projects in the mid to late stages of development, two world-renowned firms are in the early stages of their projects, with ambitions of spurring economic vitality and helping fulfill RFS2 mandates.

The DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC joint venture is in the process of evaluating sites for its first commercial-scale production facility called “Project Blackhawk.” DDCE is scanning potential sites in the Midwest for its proposed 25 to 50 MMgy corn stover-fed facility, with Iowa under serious consideration. Representatives from DDCE presented a full application on the project to the state’s economic development funding arm, the Iowa Power Fund board, which agreed to continue negotations on the project, according to Don Tormey, public information and communications director for the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. “DDCE wants to have a decision made by the board no later than the end of January 2011,” he says.

Upon approval, the cellulosic ethanol plant would take about 18 months to complete construction with anticipated commercial operations in 2013, according to DDCE corporate communications director Jennifer Hutchins. Funding for a 50 MMgy plant would require about $300 million in capital costs but, unlike other commercial cellulosic projects, Hutchins says DDCE isn’t relying on significant financial aid to complete the project. “The majority of the capital investment will primarily come from the parent companies [DuPont and Danisco],” she says, adding that it could potentially receive $30 million in Iowa state incentives. “We’re not looking for large capital investments from the government.” She adds that DDCE would need about 550,000 tons of corn stover annually, harvested from about 275,000 acres of land, for the 50 MMgy plant.

Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland Co. is moving closer to breaking ground on its proposed corn stover-fed cellulosic ethanol in Decatur, Ill. In addition to ethanol, ADM plans to produce biobased ethyl acrylate, a compound used to make plastics, adhesives, coatings and other materials. Expected annual capacity of cellulosic ethanol and ethyle acrylate weren’t disclosed.

The facility, which would be located adjacent to ADM’s existing 300 MMgy ethanol plant, has cleared approval by the county board and the city council, according to Decatur economic development corporation president, Craig Coil. It is in final stages of expanding an enterprise zone to accommodate the project. “We’re now looking at the boundary modification application request through the state department of commerce and awaiting their approval,” he says.

According to Coil, the proposed expansion would have an estimated completion in July 2012. ADM intends to leverage a $24.8 million U.S. DOE grant to fund the project, Coil says, along with various state and tax credits and exemptions.

—Bryan Sims