Poet, Iowa partner to produce cellulosic ethanol

By Megan Skauge | March 05, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 9, 2009, at 10:57 a.m. CST

A $14.75 million contract between Poet LLC and the state of Iowa has been approved by the Iowa Power Fund Board. The contract finalizes the partnership to develop a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa.

"This is an important step in advancing Iowa's strength in the biofuels industry through second-generation biofuels development, while spurring economic development, "said Roya Stanley, director of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. "This partnership with Poet demonstrates our commitment to helping Iowa chart its own course to achieve energy independence."

Project LIBERTY will transform an existing corn-based ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, to a plant that will have both corn-to-ethanol technologies and cellulosic ethanol technologies. It will add a cellulosic ethanol production capacity of 25 MMgy, said Jim Sturdevant, director of Project LIBERTY.

Sturdevant said Project LIBERTY will be one of the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol productions. "There are no commercial-scale cellulosic plants in Iowa and I think you'd be hard pressed to find one anywhere," he said. "There's a lot of cellulosic ethanol research plants, pilot plants, laboratory-scale work going on, but in terms of a commercial-scale large plant that's producing cellulosic ethanol there just isn't one quite yet."

Project LIBERTY represents more than $200 million capital investment in Emmetsburg and area farmers will see a revenue increase of $5.4 million to $10.8 million, according to Poet. The primary feedstock for the cellulosic production will be corn cobs.

"We're very proud to have this opportunity to work on this challenge because cellulosic ethanol will have so much benefit for our nation and our world. It's a tremendous opportunity for us to significantly reduce dependency of foreign oil as a nation," Sturdevant said.

The project, funded by Poet, the U.S. DOE, and the state of Iowa, is scheduled to being production in 2011.