One year after DuPont announced that it would be looking for a buyer for its cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, the goal has been achieved.
Late in the day Thursday, Nov. 8, DuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) and VERBIO North America Corporation (VNA), the U.S. subsidiary of leading German bioenergy producer VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergie AG (VERBIO), announced that they had reached terms for VNA to acquire DuPont's Nevada-based plant and a portion of its corn stover inventory.
“It's great news for Nevada to have an established renewable energy company invest in our community,” said Mayor Brett Barker, right after the announcement was made.
According to a press release issued about the sale, VERBIO is a leading manufacturer in the German biomethane and biofuels market, running four production facilities 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 focuses on developing and installing new technologies to produce first and second generation biofuels from biomass and crop residues.
“The DuPont facility in Nevada, Iowa, offers excellent infrastructure to construct our first RNG facility outside Germany,” said Claus 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 to procure the raw materials. Once the plant is in operation, it offers the Nevada community new agricultural revenue streams, new employment opportunities and new sources of tax revenues.”
VNA is working on plans to start construction of the RNG plant in spring 2019 and begin commercial production of renewable transportation fuel by summer 2020.
Greg Northrup, president of VERBIO North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., said once the company achieves startup in 2020, “we anticipate having 44 employees. Skill sets (for employees) include chemical and civil engineering, technicians and operators, and general laborers.”
When it comes to what construction work is needed at the DuPont facility, built at the western-most edge of Nevada along the Lincoln Highway, Northrup said they are still assessing the integration of the systems. “The Nevada site's infrastructure is a real attribute and allows us to accelerate our startup processes,” He commented, noting that there will be some additional structures, which are part of the renewable natural gas production process, needed at the site.
“Methane will be produced by using anaerobic digestion, which then will be upgraded to natural gas pipeline quality for injection into the distribution/transmission system,” Northrup explained about what all is involved in preparing the plant for VNA.
Jan Koninckx, global business director of biofuels, DuPont, also weighed in on the transition between the companies. “We're very confident in VNA's ability to take over operations of the Nevada plant,” she said. “This community has been very supportive during our time in Story County. We thank the many people who were instrumental to our operations, and we wish VNA well.”
When it comes to VNA having a facility in the heartland of America, Northrup commented. “Most critically, Iowa offers us access to feedstock, corn stover, at the kinds of scale we require to meet our business objectives.”
Following its merger with Dow in 2017, DuPont announced a strategic shift within the cellulosic biofuels market and began to seek a buyer for the biorefinery. DuPont continues to participate in the overall biofuels market through specialty offerings, including both first- and second-generation biofuel enzymes and engineered yeast solutions that improve yield and productivity for biofuel producers.
Completion of the transaction between DuPont and VNA is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to occur in November. VNA intends to install facilities to produce RNG made from corn stover and other cellulosic crop residues at the site. This would be VERBIO's third production facility devoted to this cellulosic technology – in 2014, the company commissioned its first facility in Schwedt, Germany, and its second facility in Pinnow, Germany, is currently being commissioned.
Nevada City Administrator Matt Mardesen said he is excited to see the facility being repurposed in the bio-fuel industry. “This opportunity bodes well for the city of Nevada and Story County with future job growth that has the potential to impact our local economies,” Mardesen said. “This opportunity reaches beyond the city limits of Nevada and will provide local farmers an opportunity to market stover as part of their farming operations.”
Nevada Economic Development Director John Hall shared his thoughts about how VNA is one more great economic development news items that the community has achieved this year. “We are very excited about the quality job opportunities this company will provide. We look forward to working with them as we continue to build on the momentum in Nevada and Story County. 2018 has been an incredible year for growth in our community with the Mid-States expansion, the Burke expansion and now with the VERBIO North America announcement.”