DuPont has defended its $500 million investment in a new cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, after activist investor Nelson Peltz cited the facility as an example of the company's "speculative and expensive corporate science projects" that have impacted shareholder value.
William Feehery, president of DuPont's industrial biosciences unit, said that the investment will pay off as the demand for renewable chemicals and fuels rises, Bloomberg reported.
Earlier this week, DuPont announced that Procter & Gamble will use cellulosic ethanol produced at the plant in a brand of laundry detergent, in a move claimed to be the first of its kind.
The consumer products manufacturer will substitute the currently used corn-based ethanol with cellulosic ethanol — a more sustainable resource — in Tide Cold Water detergent in North America.
DuPont's new biorefinery is currently under construction. When completed, the plant will re-purpose over 7,000 tons of harvest by-products each year. It will be the world's largest bioethanol refinery, with an annual output of 30 million gallons of renewable, cellulosic ethanol in a process that has zero net carbon emissions.
Ethanol allows for stability of the detergent formula and better washing performance, Procter & Gamble explained.
Gianni Ciserani, Procter & Gamble's group president of Global Fabric and Home Care, said that this partnership with DuPont demonstrates the company's commitment to sustainability. It follows a decision in January to remove phosphates from its laundry products.
According to DuPont, the commercial-scalability of cellulosic ethanol represents a technological breakthrough which has been ten years in the making.
"With this collaboration, DuPont is also taking the first step to diversify its markets for cellulosic ethanol beyond fuels," commented James Collins, senior vice president of DuPont.