The world’s largest corn ethanol producer is now successfully producing cellulosic ethanol at a pilot plant in South Dakota.
According to company officials, POET Research Center in Scotland, S.D. is now producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year using corn cobs as feedstock.
“The start-up of the pilot scale facility has been extremely smooth,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin, who held a telephone press conference Monday calling it a “grand opening” of the plant – although weather prevented them from actually holding the call at the facility. “After producing 1,000 gallons, we’ve already been able to validate all of what we learned in the lab and believe the process will be ready for commercialization when we start construction on Project LIBERTY next year.”
Broin stressed the potential for producing cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and other agricultural waste products. “Because they are being grown today, they don’t require farmers to plant a new crop,” said Broin. “And there are lots of them. Enough to produce five billion gallons of ethanol every year. That’s five billion gallons of ethanol that can come from what is a waste product today.”
Broin is optimistic about being able to achieve commercialization of cellulosic ethanol by 2011 but he hedged when asked whether he thought the industry would be able to meet the goal of 100 million gallons by 2010. “This is a brand new technology, it takes time to develop it, so we’re going to have to have a wait and see attitude,” Broin said. “You can put a number on a piece of paper, but it’s going to come at the speed at which the technology is developed.” However, he noted that the industry has been very successful in the past at meeting and even exceeding the goals set forth.