News Release: Dow and NREL Partner to Convert Biomass to Ethanol and Other Chemical Building Blocks

July 16, 2008 | By George Douglas | Contact media relations

The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced an agreement to jointly develop and evaluate a process that will convert biomass to ethanol and other chemical building blocks. The collaborative effort demonstrates both Dow and NREL’s commitment to deliver sustainable solutions to the nation’s current energy challenges by reducing dependence on foreign oil.

A mixed alcohol catalyst from Dow is seen as the key to unlocking the potential for this promising renewable energy resource. The process will use non-food ingredients such as the leaves from a corn plant or wood wastes, and convert the bio-based material through a gasification process to synthesis gas. Dow’s technology helps convert the synthesis gas into a mixture of alcohols including ethanol that can be used as transportation fuels or chemical building blocks.  

“NREL is interested in reducing the cost of biofuels in support of the nation's energy goals,” NREL Director Dan Arvizu said.  “Dow’s catalyst technology and expertise in catalyst development and testing will be extremely helpful as we evaluate the viability of this approach on a larger scale.”
The joint evaluation program will focus on improving the mixed alcohol catalyst, as well as demonstrating pilot scale performance and the commercial relevance of an integrated facility.

“This agreement exemplifies how Dow uses its technology to generate sustainable solutions that address energy challenges in the U.S., while building our portfolio of alternative energy and feedstock options,” said Juan Luciano, Dow’s business president of Hydrocarbons and Energy. “By using ethanol derived from biomass as an alternative raw material or feedstock, Dow is exploring new ways to reduce the cost and volatility of its inputs to produce chemicals and plastics that are essential to a wide range of consumer products.”

About Dow

With annual sales of $54 billion and 46,000 employees worldwide, Dow is a diversified chemical company that combines the power of science and technology with the "Human Element” to constantly improve what is essential to human progress. The Company delivers a broad range of products and services to customers in around 160 countries, connecting chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help provide everything from fresh water, food and pharmaceuticals to paints, packaging and personal care products. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at

About NREL

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. More information on NREL can be found at