Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Big Chem vs. Big Oil

Evidently DuPont has found the "secret sauce" to convert cellulose to simple sugars to make 30 million gallons of ethanol each year from plant material instead of corn. They have built a $200+ million (by-the-numbers) plant next to a traditional corn ethanol plant so the farmers who store and sell their corn to Lincolnway Energy can also store and sell baled stover to DuPont. (Stover is the part of the corn plant left over after the corn is removed from the field and includes the husks, cobs, and stalks.) Removing some of the stover also helps the farmer practice no-till conservation practices by removing the excess organic material generated by high-producing corn plants, which are big. In other areas of the world, the process can be used to turn other farming waste such as wheat and sugarcane straws into transportation fuel. (cellulosic-ethanol + stover-management)

Screenshot form Video
The process also creates lignin pellets. Lignin is the polymer molecules in plant cell walls that provide the "stiffness" of the plant. "It is the chief noncarbohydrate constituent of wood." (FreeDictionary) These pellets can be burned in a biomass boiler to create steam or "sold to coal-burning facilities to offset the use of fossel fuel" (video@3:20).

The plant is closed-loop because it recycles its water and energy.

DuPont has bought Pioneer, which would explain why they have so much expertise with agriculture products.

Update: this video teaches me about the "shredder" for preparing the windrow for the baler. I've discovered several videos by POET-DSM which has their own Project Liberty plant. This one struck me as the best one.

But a "second-generation" cellulosic ethanol plant has gone bankrupt already!

A video of a new corn head that chops up the corn stems because since the 1990s corn plants produce more biomass than will otherwise decompose in a year. It does seem better to sell the excess biomass rather than increase the rot rate.

Video of "The Farmer" mowing, raking and bailing their corn stalks for bedding for their Black Angus.  They have already used the harvested corn field as pasture. I wonder if cattle can lick the lost corn kernels off the corn. The Farmer prefers corn fodder to straw for bedding because the cattle eat about 75% of the bale, and that provides good roughage.


BP and DuPont’s bio-isobutanol joint venture, Butamax, acquires ethanol facility in Kansas I guess BP decided to join Big Chem rather than fight it. It sounds like DuPont has found/created yeast that poops isobutanol instead of ethanol.

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