Benefits of stover removal pique interest at DuPont ethanol plant meeting

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Creating an infrastructure aimed at providing 375,000 tons of raw material a year from scratch could prove to be a tall order for most manufacturing facilities. But Story County and surrounding communities in central Iowa seem to be taking the challenge in stride. More than 50 business leaders, producers, conservationists and educators attended the inaugural meeting of a Community Advisory Panel for DuPont’s new cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. Here’s Dr. Mark Edelman talking about the meeting.

Dr. Edelman is the CAP facilitator whose job will be to help the panel assist with the transition from the traditional market for corn stover (limited sales for animal feed and bedding) to providing enough material to keep a 30-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant running year-round. Noting the number of persons attending the first meeting exceeded expectations, he said the panel will probably meet quarterly.

“Some of the participants were surprised that research is showing that removing a certain amount of stover from the fields could actually help increase yields,” said Edelman. “That’s in addition to creating a new market for corn stover and providing 60 full-time plant operations jobs and jobs for another 150 persons who will be involved in collecting and transporting the stover from a 30-mile radius of the plant.”

Besides helping guide projects like the CAP,  Edelman teaches an economic development course and serves as Community Vitality Center Director at Iowa State University.  During this inaugural meeting, CAP members discussed the panel’s goals and objectives, and a process for ongoing engagement with the new facility’s management team.

Construction on the plant is expected to be completed in the second half of 2014. The $200-million facility will be among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefiners in the world, according to DuPont officials.

Finding an economic and sustainable supply of raw material other than grain corn has long been a goal of the ethanol industry. While corn will continue to be a mainstay of U.S. ethanol production, the capability of producing a significant amount of ethanol with alternative materials such as corn stover, switchgrass, wood chips and so on would help reduce the pressure on corn prices when grain is in short supply as it was in the drought of 2012.

To supply the corn stover for its plant, DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of stover per year into the Nevada facility.The stover will be collected from an approximate 30-mile radius around the new facility and harvested off of 190,000 acres.

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