Ethanol plant at Nevada, Iowa.
CORN STOVER: New owner plans to convert this Iowa cellulosic ethanol plant to produce renewable natural gas made from corn stover and crop biomass.

Iowa cellulosic ethanol plant sold to German firm

DuPont sells its central Iowa facility to a company that will use it to produce renewable natural gas.

The idled DuPont cellulosic ethanol plant near the town of Nevada in central Iowa has been purchased by VERBIO North American Corporation VNA, the U.S. subsidiary of a German biofuels company. VERBIO North American is the Michigan-based subsidiary of VERBIO Verein BioEnergie AG. The deal was announced Nov. 8 in a joint statement released by DuPont and VERBIO. 

No purchase price was disclosed, and the deal is expected to close in November. VERBIO plans to install equipment in the Nevada plant to produce renewable natural gas made from corn stover and other cellulosic crop feedstock.

DuPont originally built the plant several years ago and began making cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and stalks, buying the biomass feedstock from area farmers. A year ago, DuPont announced it was closing the plant and would sell it. The plant laid off 90 workers.

Why DuPont closed the ethanol plant last fall

Explaining why it was closing and selling the plant, DuPont last fall said the cellulosic ethanol facility no longer fit with the company’s strategic plan. DuPont had merged with Dow Chemical.

In a Nov. 8 press release, VERBIO said the Nevada plant will be its third production facility that uses cellulosic technology. In 2014 the company built its first such facility in Germany and is now building its second facility, also in Germany. VERBIO is a leading manufacturer in the German biomethane and biofuels market, producing around 27 million gallons of renewable natural gas (RNG), 140 million gallons of biodiesel and 87 million gallons of ethanol per year. 

The company, in its press release, says it focuses on developing and installing new technologies to produce first- and second-generation biofuels from biomass and crop residue.

“The DuPont facility at Nevada, Iowa offers excellent infrastructure to construct our first RNG facility outside Germany,” says Chris Sauter, CEO of VERBIO. “We can use part of the installed equipment for our production and there is a solid base of local farmers from whom we can buy the raw materials. Once the plant is in operation, it will offer the community of Nevada, Iowa new ag revenue streams, new employment opportunities and new sources of tax revenues.”

To begin producing fuel by summer 2020

Jan Koninckx, global business director of biofuels for DuPont, says “We’re very confident in VNA’s ability to take over operation of the Nevada plant. This community has been very supportive during our time in Story County.” VERBIO plans to start construction of the renewable gas operation in spring 2019 and start commercially producing renewable transportation fuel by summer 2020.

Officials of the town of Nevada have made known their concern that a new buyer would purchase the hundreds of thousands of corn stover bales stored at 23 locations around Story and neighboring counties. Husks, corn cobs and stalks create a huge fire liability for the city and county.

The merged DowDuPont plans to spin-off three businesses: agriculture, material sciences and specialty products in 2019. The merged corporation is the parent of DuPont Pioneer, the seed industry giant that employs about 2,600 people in Iowa.

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