Feb. 06--Construction at the site of DuPont's new cellulosic ethanol plant outside Nevada is progressing, with company officials expecting the plant to be operational toward the end of this year.
The $200 million facility is expected to produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year, and is one of the first plants of its kind in the world.
The plant will blend corn stover -- the leftover stocks, leaves and cobs left on the ground after a harvest -- into ethanol.
Operations Manager Terraun Jones said the company has already been using the technology behind cellulosic ethanol production at its pilot plant in Vonore, Tenn., which opened in 2008.
The Nevada plant, however, is a much larger endeavor than the Vonore plant.
"This is the first time we're taking it from a smaller pilot plant scale and scaling up to an industrial-size operation so we can actually mass produce ethanol," Jones said.
Jones said the ethanol produced at the plant will be used in 90/10 blend gasoline and could also be used to blend E85 and E15.
Jones said when it opens during fourth-quarter of this year, the plant will employ 85 full-time workers, and also offer seasonal jobs harvesting stover from area farm fields.
At a storage site roughly seven miles north of Nevada, a stockpile of stover bales has been steadily growing for the past two years. The 10 acre storage site holds up to 40,000 bales of stover, and is currently about 90-percent full.
John Pieper, director of the Cellulosic Ethanol Development Program Office, said DuPont contracted with about 225 area farmers to harvest stover on roughly 60,000 acres of corn fields within a 35-mile radius in 2013.
Brian Sampson, who farms north of Nevada, said he was curious about the option of harvesting stover, and contracted two of his fields with DuPont for the first time last year.
"I like being on the ground-floor, so to speak, of a new venture," he said.
Sampson said while he has heard negative opinions about removing stover from corn fields, he was "pleasantly surprised" to see the stover harvest still left a "nice bit of cover on the field."
Eventually, Pieper said, DuPont will need to harvest on roughly 200,000 acres of corn fields within the area to get the volume of stover they need for the plant each year.
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