Cellulosic plant construction kicks into high gear

2012-03-22T16:25:00Z Cellulosic plant construction kicks into high gearBy Barry Amundson, Reporter Tri State Neighbor
March 22, 2012 4:25 pm  • 

While not turning down any producers, the new Poet-Royal DSM commercial cellulosic ethanol plant near Emmetsburg, Iowa, will get most of its corncobs, leaves, husk and some stalk within a 30-mile to 35-mile radius of the facility.

According to Project Liberty director Jim Sturdevant, the $250 million advanced biofuels plant, which held a groundbreaking ceremony March 13, will need about 285,000 tons of the material per year.

For a perspective on that, it’s the equivalent of the biomass from about one-third of the corn acres in a 30-mile radius.

“We are working our way up to that total,” Sturdevant said.

Farmers last year harvested 61,000 tons of the material that is being stored in a 22-acre stackyard already completed.

Farmers are taking about 1 ton per acre off their land.

“We won’t turn away any interested farmer,” Sturdevant said.

The new plant, about 130 miles southeast of Sioux Falls, is expected to open in 2013.

Preliminary site work has been completed and vertical construction is the next step.

The plant is next to Poet’s grain ethanol facility.

Initially, the plant will produce 20 million gallons of ethanol per year, and Sturdevant said they expect to increase output 25 million gallons each year.

Poet, based in Sioux Falls, has developed the technology for the process through both lab-scale and pilot-scale work.

“We have been working on commercializing cellulosic ethanol for more than a decade,” Sturdevant said.

The groundbreaking marked a milestone in the company’s quest to be one of the first to commercialize cellulosic ethanol, Poet president Jeff Lautt said.

“Poet has been a leader in growing the corn ethanol industry to approximately 10 percent of America’s automobile fuel supply,” Lautt said. “Right here in Emmetsburg, we want to build on that foundation and develop another renewable, domestic alternative to foreign oil, something we believe America needs.”

Stephan Tanda, member of the managing board of Royal DSM based in Heerlen, Netherlands, said at the ceremony, “DSM is a living example of the transformation from a petroleum-based economy to a bio-based economy. By joining forces with innovative growers and entrepreneurs right here in Iowa we all together are pioneering new value chains that produce fuel and eventually also chemicals and advanced materials from sustainable, renewable resources.”

Poet and Royal DSM entered into a joint-venture agreement in January to form Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels. The two companies each hold a 50 percent share in the venture.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said the state is well positioned to build on its strength in biofuels production.

“This groundbreaking today is a great example of a project that leverages Iowa’s unique strength in agriculture and renewable fuels production to create another new product for the renewable energy marketplace,” Branstad said.

“Iowa’s biofuels industries have added $6 billion to Iowa’s economy, generated $3.7 billion in household income and created and supported 82,000 Iowa jobs. The regional economic benefits of this project are significant. This is a facility that will require highly skilled workers and create high-paying jobs,” he said.

While construction is under way, the company continues to establish the feedstock logistics for processing approximately 770 dry tons per day at the plant during full-scale operations. Many farmers in attendance played a part in harvesting biomass for Project Liberty last fall. That work will continue during the 2012 harvest.

Poet is a 25-year-old company that has a production capacity in excess of 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol and 9 billion pounds of high-protein animal feed annually from its network of 27 production facilities.

The federal government’s Renewable Fuels Standard sets an annual goal of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, with 16 billion gallons coming from cellulosic ethanol.

Poet is working to make that goal a reality and hopes to produce 3.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2022, making use of various cellulosic feedstocks from across the country.

Poet said researchers are working to make the process more affordable.

The company said its process uses about 25 percent of corncobs, leaves, husk and some stalk that passes through the combine during harvest, leaving 75 percent on the ground for erosion control, nutrient replacement and other farm management practices.

“We believe that the key to unlocking cellulosic ethanol is enzymes. We plan to use the technology we’re developing today to convert other sources into fuel, including switchgrass and wood chips,” Sturdevant said. “But we will generate more than fuel. Once ethanol is produced, the remaining material will be fed into an energy system to produce power. We anticipate that enough power will be produced from this material to run the cellulosic ethanol plant and export power to the adjacent grain-based ethanol plant.”

Copyright 2015 Tri State Neighbor. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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