DuPont, Danisco join forces for non-food ethanol

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Biofuel

A new joint venture by DuPont and Danisco aims to develop what
could be the first large-scale non-food ethanol production, which
could lighten the pressure of biofuels on the food industry.

The DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol venture will be a 50/50 initiative, which will use agricultural by-products to make ethanol. Although these by-products may run by the term 'feedstocks', they do not refer to animal feedstock. All sources for the new ethanol production will be non-food and non-feed, a spokesperson told The move, which promises to be a significant step in non-food source - or 'second generation' - ethanol production, is sure to be welcomed by the food industry in light of growing pressures on raw material supplies. Food vs fuel debate ​ There has been a running argument that the surge in ethanol production in recent years has diverted crucial food crops from food use, thereby contributing to a surge in food prices. This view is not shared by everyone though, with many - including the US government - maintaining that the impact on food of biofuel production is minimal. Experts have estimated that the biofuel demand on corn and other grain crops runs between 10 and 30 per cent. However, in recent weeks the Bush administration for the first time acknowledged that there may be some truth to the food and fuel tug-of-war. ​Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated there have been some unforeseen consequences in the push for biofuels as land previously used for food crops is diverted to biofuel crop production. She did qualify that this is only one of many contributing factors, however. " ….Everything from fertilizer to transportation costs is bringing on our ability to distribute or to get food to people, and then associated with that there has been apparently some effect - unintended consequences - from the alternative fuels effort,"​ Rice said at a Washington press conference in April. Second generation ethanol ​ Regardless of the extent to which biofuel production currently impacts food, the new move by DuPont and Genencor, a Danisco division, is sure to be welcomed by the food industry. According to a Genencor spokesperson, it is a move "that ultimately would benefit everyone because there wouldn't be any impact at all on food supplies".​ The two partners plan an initial three-year investment of $140m, which will initially use corn stover and sugar cane bagasse as sources. In the future, targets include multiple lingo-cellulosic feedstocks, such as wheat straw, a variety of energy crops and other biomass sources. The companies said they expect their first pilot plant to be operational in the United States in 2009, with the first commercial-scale demonstration facility to be operational within the next three years. The joint venture will be headquartered in the US and will be formed after receipt of required regulatory approvals, they said. DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol will use the science and technologies of both companies in order to be able to economically produce ethanol from non-food sources. They plan to lower overall system costs to produce a gallon of ethanol from cellulosic materials by optimizing the process steps into a single integrated technology solution. According to Danisco CEO Tom Knutzen, the joint venture will create the "technology standard"​ for cellulosic ethanol production. "By integrating our companies' strengths and expertise in this new venture, we are significantly increasing the potential to make cellulosic ethanol from multiple non-food sources an economic reality around the world,"​ added DuPont Chairman and CEO Charles O. Holliday, Jr. "With food and gas prices surging at double-digit rates, there is an imperative for sustainable biofuels technologies. This joint venture addresses this issue head on."

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