Petroleum-Free in Tennessee

Petroleum-Free in Tennessee

Chad Holliday Jr. is full of enthusiasm as he surveys the crowd at the grand opening of the DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Facility on a humid day last June in Loudon, Tennessee. No doubt this is a proud professional moment for the DuPont CEO and chairman, but Holliday (Knoxville ’70) is also glad just to be back home in the Volunteer State.

“We’ve built the only plant of its kind,” he says. “This facility is one of the largest biomaterials processing facilities in the world, and it offers us the opportunity to begin manufacturing state-of-the-art renewable materials.” The new plant produces the first propanediol (PDO) derived from corn sugar instead of petroleum. PDO is used to manufacture such products as cosmetics, liquid detergents, de-icing fluids, and antifreeze.

In 2000 DuPont, in association with Genencor, developed a patented process to create PDO using corn sugar–a renewable resource–as a raw material rather than the previous industry standard, petroleum. DuPont partnered with Tate & Lyle, a leading international manufacturer of renewable ingredients for industrial and food products, to form the DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products joint venture. Since Tate & Lyle had already established a thriving corn biorefinery whet mill facility in Loudon, building an adjacent plant for bioproducts manufacturing was the logical choice.

Producing their product, called Bio-PDOTM, consumes 40 percent less energy than producing petroleum-based PDO and reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based propanediol.

Since Holliday took over at DuPont, the global corporation has established its primary mission as one of sustainable growth. The company is committed to increasing shareholder and societal value while decreasing its environmental footprint. It has changed course from a chemical company to a science-based products and services company.

After graduating with a B.S. in industrial engineering from the College of Engineering at UT Knoxville, Holliday immediately went to work for DuPont at the company’s Old Hickory facility in Nashville. He progressed through a range of manufacturing, marketing, and business assignments before assuming the role of CEO of the 205-year-old worldwide science company, which is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1998. He became the youngest person to hold that position in the 20th century. Holliday is the 18th chief executive of DuPont.

“I have seen the concern for the increasing population of the world and the subsequent stress on our resources,” Holliday says. “We need environmentally friendly products that are also accepted by the public.”

Holliday is excited by the possibilities that the new venture offers and about establishing a new business enterprise in his home state.

“The University of Tennessee is establishing itself as a leader in the chemical and biotechnical fields, and we’re hoping to eventually take advantage of that expertise,” he says. “We’ve set our sights very high with this partnership and this facility. We hope it will provide a stimulus to economic development in the region and the state.”

During the grand opening, members of the DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio-PDO research team were presented with the American Chemical Society’s 2007 “Heroes of Chemistry” Award by Dr. Bruce Bursten, dean of UT’s College of Arts and Sciences and president of the society.

“We’re very proud of this group of dedicated researchers who came up with this innovative technology,” Holliday says.

Holliday is an elected member of the class of 2004 National Academy of Engineering and past chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Business Council, and the Society of Chemical Industry–American Section. He is also a founding member of the International Business Council.

Holliday also visited Tennessee earlier in the year to receive another very special award. On Sunday, May 20, he was honored at the Institute of Industrial Engineers annual conference in Nashville with a “Captains of Industry” Award. This recognition honors such business, industry, and government leaders as presidents, CEOs, senior vice-presidents, and directors of organizations with substantial sales, assets, employees, or other resources. Holliday was nominated for the award by Dean Way Kuo of UT Knoxville’s College of Engineering.

Holliday delivered the keynote speech at the conference, which was attended by UT officials President John Petersen and Lee Riedinger, former interim vice-chancellor for research, as well as Dean Kuo and Alberto Garcia, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering.

Holliday, who lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with his wife, Ann, is clearly pleased that the new DuPont Tate & Lyle facility is located in Big Orange Country and looks forward to other visits in the coming years.

“Everybody says that I rigged having the Tennessee connection for the new plant,” Holliday says with a grin. “Actually, everything just fell into place, and it’s great. There’s just something about being back home that feels really good.”