Media Resources  » Media kits »

Tennessee Breaks Ground for Innovative Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Biorefinery

DuPont Danisco and the University of Tennessee on fast track to complete construction and begin production in 2009

October 14, 2008

(VONORE, Tenn.) – DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE) and the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation, through Genera Energy, LLC, broke ground today for an innovative pilot-scale biorefinery and state-of-the-art research and development facility for cellulosic ethanol, or ethanol from non-food sources.

On hand to celebrate the event were Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and numerous other state and local officials as well as Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and U.S. Representatives Zach Wamp and John J. Duncan, Jr. In 2007 Governor Bredesen and the State Legislature supported the project with a $70.5 million commitment including $40.7 million for biorefinery construction. Those funds are being combined with a substantial investment from DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol to construct the high-tech research facility.

“This morning, we held our first-ever Summit on Clean Energy Technology in Knoxville, and now we are here to break ground on this world-class pilot biofuel refinery,” said Bredesen. “When it comes to facing the challenges of the future, Tennessee isn’t just talking the talk about clean energy technology, we’re walking the walk, rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. The bottom line is that this plant and this partnership are going to do a lot of good for Tennessee’s future.”

The pilot-scale biorefinery is expected to be a catalyst for a new biofuel industry for the state. Utilizing DDCE's leading cellulosic ethanol technology and the UT Institute of Agriculture’s world-class expertise in cellulosic feedstock production and co-product research, the facility will produce cellulosic ethanol as a transportation fuel from two different non-food biomass feedstocks: corn stover (cobs and fiber) and switchgrass.

“I am proud of the role the University of Tennessee is playing in this initiative. It is an important part of our responsibility and our mission as a land-grant university – to impact the state’s economy and serve the public, in addition to educating the young people of Tennessee,” said UT President John Petersen. “Thanks to Governor Bredesen and his willingness to make a bold commitment to economic development, we stand here today at the very forefront of biofuel research. I believe the result of that foresight and the return on that investment can be enormous for the people of Tennessee.”

The pilot plant and process development unit (PDU) will be constructed in the Niles Ferry Industrial Park. A PDU is a research facility that enables both experimentation at larger-than-laboratory scale and more rapid adjustments to process components. With a plant capacity of 250,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually, the facility is expected to produce cellulosic ethanol by the end of 2009.

“DuPont Danisco has the technology package that will lead the way in the market,” said DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC President Joseph Skurla. “We are ready to scale-up, we have economics that can’t be beat and, with the University of Tennessee and the farmers of this great state, we have a winning team that is going to help deliver sustainable, non-food biofuels to the market on an accelerated schedule.”

The University has also invested state research dollars to develop switchgrass as a dedicated cellulosic energy crop. Sixteen east Tennessee farmers – all of whom were scheduled to attend the groundbreaking – participated in the first round of sponsored switchgrass production. The farmers worked a combined 723 acres in 2008 as part of the University’s research into supply chain logistics for cellulosic biorefineries.

The first fruits of the spring planting, bales harvested from about three acres, were on display during the groundbreaking. In two more years the switchgrass established this year will produce even more biomass per acre, and the harvested switchgrass will be used as feedstock for the biorefinery.

The pilot plant is also designed to convert corn stover from western Tennessee to ethanol. Corn stover is the plant material left in the field after the grain is harvested for use as food or feed for livestock. The biorefinery’s construction and switchgrass production are the first major components of the UT Biofuels Initiative, a farm-to-fuel business plan developed by UT Institute of Agriculture researchers. The Initiative models a biofuels industry with multiple commercial facilities supplied by locally grown feedstock and capable of supplementing 30 percent of Tennessee's current petroleum consumption.


DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC
Jennifer Hutchins
585.256.6973 (office); 585.967.4619 (mobile)

Office of Governor Phil Bredesen
Lydia Lenker

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
Patricia McDaniels
865.974.7141 (office); 865.363.6009 (mobile)

For more information: