DuPont Updates Strategy to Develop Next-Generation Biofuels

At the third annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing Conference, held last week in Toronto, DuPont biofuels research manager William D. Provine presented the company’s biofuels strategy and John Pierce, DuPont Bio-Based Technologies vice president, reviewed current global biofuels issues and the future of cellulosic ethanol as a replacement for gasoline transportation fuel.

“We have a three-part strategy to deliver new technologies to the growing biofuels market to help biofuels become more competitive with petroleum,” Provine said. “It entails: (1) improving existing ethanol production through differentiated agricultural seed products and crop protection chemicals; (2) developing and supplying new technologies to allow conversion of cellulose to biofuels; and (3) developing and supplying next generation biofuels with improved performance.” “Our strategy is simple and consistent with the mega trends we are seeing globally,” Pierce explained. “We are making new chemicals, such as Bio-PDO(TM), and new fuels, such as biobutanol, from agricultural crops. And we are simultaneously developing new ways to convert abundant plant cellulose fibers to biofuels so that even larger volumes of these valuable materials can be produced.” DuPont and the U.S. Department of Energy are jointly funding a four-year research program to develop technology to convert corn stover into ethanol. This is consistent with the company’s strategy to develop technologies that can convert energy crops such as grasses, and agricultural byproducts such as straw and corn stalks, into biofuels and biochemicals. The Integrated Corn-Based BioRefinery (Cellulosic Fuels) program will increase the amount of ethanol per acre achievable by using corn grain and stover on the same amount of land. DuPont’s partnership with BP to develop biobutanol is designed to bring advanced biofuels to market and expand the use of biofuels in gasoline. Biobutanol will be the first product available and offers improved performance, enhancing ethanol-gasoline blends by lowering the vapor pressure and enhancing fuel stability of biobutanol-gasoline blends, which enables it to be distributed via existing fuel supply infrastructure. Biobutanol improves blend flexibility as well, the release states, allowing higher biofuels blends with gasoline, and it improves fuel efficiency (better miles per gallon) compared to incumbent biofuels. Biobutanol is due for introduction in 2007 in the UK. Additional global capacity will be introduced as market conditions dictate. “Our strategy is designed to deliver the science needed to begin to transform global economies so we are less reliant on oil by enabling the adoption of efficient, high- performance, bio-based technologies,” Pierce concluded.

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