DuPont subsidiary name change signals partner integration

| November 21, 2011

Jan Koninckx, global business director for DuPont Biofuels, wants people to know that DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol didn’t just disappear, but instead it has simply dropped the Danisco portion and will now use the name DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol. The name change singles DuPont’s commitment and plans to commercialize its cellulosic ethanol plans, according to Koninckx, as it signals the integration of several different players under the DuPont name, which, he added, is synonymous with developing processes for commercialization. “This name change represents a little bit more,” he told Biorefining Magazine. “We are really integrating this entire effort, and we’ve always said that integration is key.”

Along with the name change for the cellulosic ethanol effort that includes agriculture expert Pioneer, global enzyme developer Genencor (owned by Danisco), Iowa State University, the University of Tennessee, and others, DuPont has also made changes in adding to its cellulosic leadership team. Steve Mirshak, who led the commercialization efforts between DuPont and Tate & Lyle to produce biobased propanediol at commercial scale, will now take lead over the cellulosic ethanol network. “The bio PDO plant is at about 130 million pounds in scale, and the kind of competencies that are needed to bring this (a cellulosic ethanol facility in Iowa) commercial are similar,” Koninckx said. “So we are leveraging that with Steve.” DuPont also brought industry-related experience from outside the company. Keith Gibson, formerly the manager at the ethanol production company Iroquois Bio-Energy Company LLC, has been named the plant manager of DuPont's future facility in Nevada, Iowa.

During an event held near Ames, Iowa, to announce the name change and the hiring of both Mirshak and Gibson, Mirshak commented on the ability of DuPont, pointing out that the cellulosic biofuel industry “is at a pivotal stage in its development as a viable alternative fuel,” adding that “few companies can bring to bear the advanced technology and the operations expertise critical for success.”

A lot of companies that work in this field have a very specific strength; some may believe they have the best enzyme or the best organism to ferment, or the best supply chain advantage. But, what sets DuPont apart, Koninckx added, was the company’s ability to integrate all of the processes together. The company has already begun playing a larger role in the corn stover harvest process, he said, as evidenced by the event near Ames that was in part a celebration of the corn stover harvest. And Kokinckx said that come this time next year DuPont will have made several achievements.

“In cellulosic ethanol, you’ll see us start construction in Iowa, you will see us continue to build our supply chain in biomass,” and, he said, “you’ll see us change feedstocks in our technology demonstration facility in Tennessee. Next year at this time we will be running switchgrass, while we are now running corn stover.” DuPont intends to prove out the full scope of its cellulosic ethanol technology that involves Genencor-supplied enzymes, and is aimed at operating as a multifeedstock process.

Koninckx added that, as for their butanol aspirations with BP, in the next year expect to see DuPont announce commercial partnerships while they avert efforts towards engineering.