An overview of DuPont's cellulosic ethanol activities

Fall 2013 Clean Energy
Nitin Kohlhapurie
Biofuels Technology Manager, DuPont Industrial Biosciences
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Advancing the Cellulosic Ethanol Industry

Cellulosic ethanol is one of the most exciting advanced biofuels that has the potential to meet the global transportation fuel needs in a sustainable manner while reducing greenhouse gas footprint. First generation bio-ethanol (produced primarily from food crops such as corn or sugarcane) is made with relatively simple technologies that are well-developed and cost-effective for large scale production. Although it uses a plant material that is a renewable source, sustainable production of the food-based ethanol is debated because of a possibility of undue competition with food supply chain, use of resources such as water or cultivated land, and the ability to achieve targets for substituting petroleum-based products or for reducing greenhouse gases. Most of these concerns can be addressed in cellulosic ethanol, which is produced by biochemical conversion of non-edible, renewable feedstocks such as woody or fibrous lingo-cellulosic biomass. A wide range of biomass feedstocks ranging from dedicated energy crops (for example, switchgrass or miscanthus) to forest or agricultural residues (for example, corn stover or wheat straws) are available abundantly. However, the useful biomass components (C5/C6 sugars) are locked in complex polymeric chains of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, requiring complicated and unproven technologies to extract fermentable sugars. Also, there are logistical challenges to reach its full potential because of the lack of supply chain to collect, store and transport large-scale biomass to production facilities.

This talk will provide a glimpse of DuPont’s research and process development efforts in making the cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality. The first part of this presentation will outline development of the feedstock supply chain and the overall conversion technology while highlighting research advances in pretreatment, fermentation microorganism and enzymes that are needed to address technical, logistical and commercial challenges. The second part will focus on commercialization efforts to scale up the technology from laboratory to demonstration biorefinery in Vonore, Tennessee to commercial biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa.


Nitin H. Kolhapure is the biofuels technology manager at DuPont Industrial Biofuels in Wilmington, DE. Nitin has been with DuPont in various positions since 2001. Prior to 2010, he was a lean six sigma black belt at DuPont Fayetteville Works-Nafior®, Tedlar®, and before that an engineering scientist and consultant for DuPont Engineering Research and Technology in Wilmington.

Nitin received his PhD in chemical engineering from Iowa State University. He is an associate member of the DuPont Fellows Forum and a young professional’s liaison for the AIChE management division. In 2011, he was invited to take part in the National Academy of Engineers 2011 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering at Google Headquarters. He has also authored a chapter in Handbook of Polymer Reaction Engineering and contributed to a chapter in The Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook (Ed 8).

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