Poet to produce cellulosic ethanol

By Erin Voegele | October 06, 2008
Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Poet LLC announced Aug. 13 that construction of its pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D., will be completed by the end of the year. The plant is adjacent to Poet's pilot-scale, corn-based ethanol production and research facility, and will produce 20,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually.

The new addition will allow Poet to further improve its technology before construction begins in 2009 on Project LIBERTY, the company's commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility to be located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Project LIBERTY will transform an existing 50 MMgy corn-based ethanol plant into an integrated facility that will produce 100 MMgy of corn-based ethanol and 25 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol. Production at Project LIBERTY is expected to begin in 2011.

Poet's cellulosic technology utilizes corn cobs and corn fiber. According to Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin, research has determined that corn cobs are a waste product that provides little value when left in the field and they do little to control soil erosion. Broin estimates that approximately 80 gallons of ethanol can be produced from each ton of corn cobs and fiber.

Poet has been working to develop this technology for eight years. In recent months, Poet scientists have been able to produce significant amounts of ethanol in fermentation, improving the yield of ethanol from biomass. In addition, the company is working with farmers and equipment manufactures to develop equipment that will collect both the corn kernels and cobs in one pass without slowing harvest.

On Sept. 11, Poet announced that the Iowa Power Fund committed $14 million to Project LIBERTY, which stands for Launch of an Integrated Biorefinery with Ecosustainable and Renewable Technologies in Y2009. It's estimated that Project LIBERTY will create at least 35 new jobs and benefit local farmers through the sale of corn cobs to the facility, which are currently valued at $30 to $60 per ton. Poet's long-term plans include adding cellulosic ethanol production to the company's other existing ethanol facilities. The company may also license its cellulosic technology to other companies.