POET opens first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S.

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



EMMETSBURG, Iowa, Sept. 3, 2014 - POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture of Royal DSM and POET, LLC, today opened its Project LIBERTY plant, which is the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the country and is expected to produce up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic bio-ethanol annually.

The grand opening took place in Emmetsburg, Iowa, where U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Department of Energy Deputy Under Secretary Michael Knotek; Iowa Governor Terry Branstad; and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands attended. 

 
 

Project LIBERTY converts baled corn cobs, leaves, husk and stalk into renewable fuel. At full capacity, it will convert 770 tons of biomass per day to produce ethanol at a rate of 20 million gallons per year, later ramping up to 25 million gallons per year, POET announced.

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“Some have called cellulosic ethanol a ‘fantasy fuel,' but today it becomes a reality,” said Jeff Broin, POET founder and executive chairman. “With access now to new sources for energy, Project LIBERTY can be the first step in transforming our economy, our environment and our national security.”

POET said Project LIBERTY will spend approximately $20 million annually purchasing biomass from area farmers, providing additional income to the farmers. The facility will consume 285,000 tons of biomass annually from a 45-mile radius of the plant.   

Fuel from the new facility represents a GHG reduction of 85-95 percent over gasoline.

Biofuel industry leaders also said the opening is a victory for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “The RFS is a critical tool in moving the U.S. beyond 10 percent ethanol use to allow this new technology to expand to other parts of the country,” POET stated in its announcement.

Assuming continued support from the RFS program and depending on the adoption rate of cellulosic ethanol both in and outside the United States, POET said it has the potential to achieve net sales of about $250 million from bio-ethanol and license income by 2020. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soon expected to release its months-overdue quotas for ethanol to be blended into gasoline. In its draft 2014 standards issued late last year, EPA scaled back the renewable fuel requirements.

“We should not forget that the RFS is enabling U.S. biofuels innovation and commercialization and the dedication of this new biorefinery underscores the significance and efficacy of this important public policy,” said Brent Erickson, the executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), in a statement.  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the opening of Project LIBERTY demonstrates “that America is ready for advanced renewable energy production.” He said the facility “has already created local jobs and opportunities for farmers, and it will continue to spur local investment and open the door for new technology and job growth across rural America.”

Project LIBERTY's capital costs are $275 million. Government support for the facility included the Department of Energy awarding $100 million in grants to support the costs of engineering and construction, as well as biomass collection and infrastructure; USDA investing $2.6 million to support the delivery of more than 58,000 dry tons of corn crop residue; and the State of Iowa contributing $20 million in grants for capital costs and feedstock logistics.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said, in Iowa, more than 82,000 “good-paying and important careers” are supported by the biofuels industry, making support for companies like POET-DSM important for the state.

The plant employs more than 50 people directly, and biomass harvesting is creating another 200 indirect jobs in the community, POET noted. Also, the state of Iowa has estimated a $24.4 billion impact on the state over 20 years.

“Companies such as Poet and DSM have invested more than $1 billion to build the next generation of ethanol plants that can make biofuels from non-grain feedstocks,” Branstad said. “In addition, companies like Poet-DSM, Abengoa, DuPont and others have constructed advanced biofuel plants, putting thousands of Americans to work in building these plants.”

 
 

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