Ethanol plant to be built in Central Iowa

Ben Theobald

Representatives of DuPont Co., a multinational chemical company, have announced plans to build a next-generation ethanol plant in Central Iowa near Nevada.

It’s estimated that the ethanol plant will take anywhere from a year to a year and a half to build. It is expected to start producing ethanol by 2013. It will be situated next to Lincolnway Ethanol Energy Plant

The next-generation plant will use corncobs and corn stover (the leaves and stalks that are left behind after the harvesting of the grain) to make ethanol. The plant may need 300,000 dry tons of corn stover annually.

“Biofuels produced from cellulose represents the next generation of biofuels with several advantages to corn ethanol,” said Robert C. Brown, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and director of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute. “However, for the present, corn ethanol can be produced more cheaply than cellulosic ethanol.”

The Bioeconomy Institute is trying to work with farmers to collect corn stover.

“It is not clear whether farmers will be paid enough for corn stover to encourage their collecting it,” Brown said. “The work we’re doing at Iowa State is studying how to make this cost effective for both farmers and manufacturers.”

Though drawbacks like those Brown mentions give some farmers pause, ethanol has some clear advantages.

“Ethanol from cellulose is expected to require less fossil fuel for its production. That is the case for grain ethanol,” Brown said.

The ISU BioCentury Research Farm is currently working with DuPont under the direction of Matt Darr, professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering.

“The research will support biomass logistics for DuPont,” Brown said.

Matt Darr could not be reached for comment.