Environment News Service (ENS)

Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Underway in Iowa


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota, October 5, 2007 (ENS) - POET Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, have signed a cooperative agreement for a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Emmetsburg, Iowa that will produce ethanol from corn cobs. Cellulosic ethanol is produced from biomass with starches that are difficult to convert to fuel; sources including corn stover, grasses, wood chips, agricultural waste.

The company says its Emmetsburg facility will use 'advanced corn fractionation' and 'lignocellulosic conversion' technologies to produce cellulosic ethanol - the first facility in the world to do so commercially.

These are two proprietary, patent-pending biotechnologies that unlock more starch from corn than ever before possible and 'yield ethanol above the industry standard output with considerably less energy,' the company says.

POET's cellulosic ethanol project is nicknamed Project Liberty because it will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

The company will convert an existing 50 million gallon per year dry-mill ethanol plant in Emmetsburg into an integrated corn-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery. Once operational, the facility will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year, 25 percent of which will be from corn fiber and corn cobs.

By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain ethanol plant, POET says the company will be able to produce 11 percent more ethanol from a bushel of corn, 27 percent more from an acre of corn, while almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption and decreasing water usage by 24 percent.

The agreement between POET and the DOE finalizes the first phase of an $80 million federal government award that was announced in February. With the agreement in place, POET will move forward on project preliminary design and engineering, environmental engineering, biomass collection and other activities that will take two years overall.

Then a two year construction phase is scheduled, with facility operation expected in 2011.

In June, POET announced that Jim Sturdevant, a 22 year veteran of the U.S. Geological Survey, will serve as director of the project.

POET has purchased additional land adjacent to their Emmetsburg production facility in order to accommodate construction of the cellulosic facility.

With the opening of its 21st ethanol production facility in September in Portland, Indiana, POET becames the largest producer of ethanol in the world. Portland is the first POET plant in the state of Indiana, with two additional plants currently under construction.

'When we started our first facility in 1988 at one million gallons per year, we had no intentions of becoming the largest,' said Jeff Broin, CEO of POET. 'We simply realized that farmers needed additional uses for their crops and the country needed a clean-burning, domestic fuel.'

'Now, with 10,000 farmer-owners and investors from all walks of life, we are developing the rural economy, improving the environment and reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil,' he said.

Formerly known as Broin, the 20 year old company currently operates 21 production facilities in the United States with six more in construction or under development.

The Portland facility will be equipped with technology that decreases its environmental footprint, including a POET patent-pending process that eliminates the need for heat in the cooking process of producing ethanol, reducing energy usage by eight to 15 percent in comparison with conventional plants.

It also will be outfitted with a 'regenerative thermal oxidizer that eliminates up to 99.9 percent of air emissions,' the company said.

POET's Portland facility will obtain 100 percent of its water supply from a nearby quarry which pumps out water in order to continue its excavation activities. To use this water, a 10 million gallon retention pond was constructed on site that lets the sediment settle out of the water before it is used in the ethanol plant. By using water that would have originally been discharged, the facility will leave more water resources available for other commercial and residential purposes.

The Portland facility will utilize 22 million bushels of corn from the area to produce 65 million gallons of ethanol and 178,000 tons of Dakota Gold Enhanced Nutrition Distillers Products™ per year. These distillers grains are a nutritious livestock feed.

The other by-product of ethanol production is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which is emitted during fermentation. Many ethanol plants collect that carbon dioxide, CO2, clean it of any residual alcohol, compress it and sell it for use to carbonate beverages or in the flash freezing of meat.

POET says, 'A select few of our plants collect, compress and market it for use in other industries. The carbon dioxide we produce is ultimately reabsorbed by future corn crops, which need CO2 to grow.'

But too much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, and only a portion of it is absorbed by plants. Instead, CO2 and other greenhouse gases form a layer that blankets the Earth, holding in heat from the Sun and raising the planet's temperature.

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