DuPont addresses biofuels, biochemicals during Investor Day event

By Erin Voegele | December 15, 2011

DuPont recently held its 2011 Investor Day event during which the company Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman and its senior leaders detailed the global growth strategy of DuPont and its business segments. Regarding its Industrial Biosciences segment, the presentation noted that long-term compound annual sales growth is expected to be 10 to 12 percent, with pretax operating income margins between 15 and 17 percent. The company said this growth will be driven by continued innovations and the commercialization of DuPont’s biofuels business, and that new products, productivity and cost synergies will contribute to the achievement of margin goals.

The event also featured a presentation by Jim Collins, DuPont’s president of Industrial Biosciences. During his speech, Collins provided an overview of the new business segment, its projects and development goals. “This unit has a simple mission…to create the industry-leading Industrial Biosciences business,” Collins said. “Now it starts with our strong technology foundation in bioprocessing and protein engineering and links to our capabilities and understanding of production agriculture, and then, to our already well established presence in advanced materials…We’ve begun to begun to organize our business, our strategies, and our approach to market around three biobased segments, and we call them Bioactives, Biomaterials and Biorefineries.”

According to Collins, the Bioactives segment is focused on bioactive enzymes, while the Biomaterials segment focuses on biomaterials and biochemicals. An example of a product that fits into this segment is the Sorona polymer, a biobased material produced via enzymes developed by Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, and a production host developed by DuPont. The third segment, Biorefineries, encompasses products that enable the processing of sugars into fuels such as ethanol and butanol.

“Conversion of biomass into sugars is the basic core mission here, and as our cellulosic technology…moves forward, we will now have three revenue streams in this market space; the licensing of engineering design and technology, the sales of some biofuels, but now, the sales of merchant enzymes that will be used by all of these new plants for their operation,” Collins said.

He also spoke about DuPont’s continuing work to develop bioisoprene. Isoprene is an important raw material in the production of tires and adhesives, he said. The material, which is currently derived from petroleum refining operations, is limited by the mass balance of how a petroleum refinery operates, Collins added. Several years ago Goodyear approached DuPont, wanting a biobased platform to produce the material. “We’re making great progress, and we expect to be constructing a pilot plant in 2012, assuming we hit some key milestone early next year,” Collins said.