Chromatin, Poet sign pact to use SD-grown sorghum for ethanol

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 12, 2013

Sorghum developer Chromatin Inc. and Poet LLC have reached an agreement that aims to expand grain sorghum acres in South Dakota up to 4,400 acres. The sorghum will be used at Poet Biorefining-Chancellor, the company’s 110 MMgy ethanol plant located about 20 miles southwest of its headquarters in Sioux Falls, S.D. “Poet is one of the most experienced and respected biorefiners in the U.S. and our agreement with them is a significant step in our commitment to expand the use of grain sorghum in the production of energy-efficient biofuels,” Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss said in announcing the agreement. “Ethanol producers are embracing the benefits of sorghum as a drop-in replacement for corn.”

“At Poet, we are constantly working to diversify our operations, not only in the products we offer but in the feedstocks we process,” said Rod Pierson, vice president of operations for Poet Plant Management. “Sorghum is a fantastic grain for producing biofuel, and this arrangement will enable us to better manage costs and balance feedstock markets.”

Sorghum’s heat and drought tolerance have made it an attractive alternative in the western Corn Belt where corn yields take a beating in those conditions. This winter, the U.S. EPA also approved a pathway for advanced biofuel using grain sorghum along with specified greenhouse gas-reducing energy efficiencies. Several Poet plants have utilized sorghum in the past when it makes sense in local conditions, said Poet public relations manager Matt Merritt, and the company is exploring the advanced biofuel aspect.

Chromatin said South Dakota growers are attracted to sorghum because it is easy to grow, has low fertilizer and water needs and is tolerant to both heat and drought conditions. South Dakota growers near the Platte River who are already familiar with the benefits of growing grain sorghum now have an alternative market for their grain. In addition, the residue from the harvest of sorghum grain can be used as high quality animal feed.

Sorghum grown in South Dakota has proven to be cost effective and energy efficient, Preuss said. “Our commitment to locally grown sorghum is strong. We are actively bringing this alternative feedstock to ethanol producers to take advantage of advanced biofuel pathways and make the market a reality.”

Chromatin earlier announced agreements with three California ethanol producers to contract for sorghum acres in the Central Valley. Last year was the first time any of those producers had used sorghum for ethanol production.