DuPont, Genencor to develop

By Craig Johnson | July 08, 2008
DuPont and Genencor, a division of Danisco AS, announced an agreement in mid-May to form DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC, a joint venture to develop and commercialize technology for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The effort is part of the two companies' commitment to produce biofuel from nonfood sources.

The initial investment calls for $140 million, which will target corn stover and sugarcane bagasse. Future objectives include multiple lignocellulosic feedstocks including wheat straw, energy crops and other biomass sources.

"With food and gas prices surging at double-digit rates, there is an imperative for sustainable biofuels technologies," said DuPont Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles Holliday Jr. "This joint venture addresses this issue head on. By integrating our companies' strengths and expertise in this new venture, we are significantly increasing the potential to make cellulosic ethanol from multiple nonfood sources an economic reality around the world."

Scientists from both companies will begin an accelerated effort to integrate unique cellulosic processing capabilities. "By combining the world-class capabilities of DuPont and Danisco, our joint venture will offer the technology standard for cellulosic ethanol production," said Danisco CEO Tom Knutzen. "This joint venture will be a powerhouse of discovery, development and engineering. It represents a major step forward in Danisco's new strategic intent to be a leading force in the field of industrial biotechnology."

Jennifer Hutchins, spokeswoman for Genencor, said a site has yet to be finalized for the pilot or commercial facilities. A start-up date for the plant is slated for 2009. A commercial-scale facility will follow within three years.

Hutchins stressed that Genencor won't discontinue its current enzyme work in light of the new collaboration. "This is huge for us, but it won't stop us from continuing to offer our merchant enzyme services for both first- and second-generation ethanol," she said.

The parent companies will license their combined existing intellectual property and patents related to cellulosic ethanol. The goal is to maximize efficiency and lower the overall system cost to produce a gallon of ethanol from cellulosic materials by optimizing the process steps into a single integrated technology solution.

The joint venture will be headquartered in the United States and will be formed after required regulatory approvals are received.