POET Shows Economic Impact of Its Ethanol

POETEthanol made by POET is big in U.S. economic growth, cutting dependence on foreign oil, and reducing greenhouse gases. The South Dakota-based ethanol maker has released its first-ever economic impact study that shows the company made significant contributions, including:

– Generating a total of $13.5 billion in sales for U.S. businesses;
– Adding $5.4 billion in national gross domestic product;
– Supporting an estimated 39,978 full time jobs; and
– Contributing $3.1 billion in income for American families.

The report further details POET’s contribution to the economic prosperity in each of the seven states where it operates – South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. POET, which is headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., operates a total of 27 dry mill corn ethanol plants with an annual capacity of 1.7 billion gallons – more than 11 percent of the total U.S. ethanol output.

“Ethanol provides us the means to produce our own clean fuel and keep the enormous economic benefits within America’s borders,” POET CEO Jeff Lautt said. “The impact flows from the plants to farmers, communities, throughout the states in which they operate and across the nation.”

In addition, the report cites POET’s impact on reducing foreign oil dependence. According to the study, POET’s production of 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol displaces nearly 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline, which requires 61 million barrels of crude oil to produce. This displacement potentially reduces the outflow of money to foreign producers of oil by nearly $5.5 billion.

The use of POET ethanol also reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to gasoline. Burning a gallon of ethanol opposed to gasoline results in a 35 percent reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Reflecting this, the production of 1.7 billion gallons of POET ethanol cuts CO2 emissions by approximately 874,000 metric tons.

The full report is available here.

Abe Hughes Joins POET

Abe HughesCongratulations to our good friend Abe Hughes for his new career opportunity with POET. I just spoke with Abe by phone to find out more about what he’s doing now as POET Senior Vice President of Business Development. From the release:

In this role, Hughes will help guide POET’s strategies for continued growth, whether through independent initiatives or partnerships, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“I’m excited to join the experienced and visionary leadership team at POET to help further shape the future of the biorefining and alternative energy industry,” Hughes said. “I look forward to helping POET continue its leadership, innovation and growth through unique partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, licensing and international expansion opportunities.”

“Abe’s experience and his personality are a great fit at POET,” CEO Jeff Lautt said. “There are exciting opportunities ahead in this industry, and I know Abe will help us make the most of them.”

Prior to joining POET, Hughes was Vice President North America for New Holland Agriculture and Construction, a world leader in the manufacture and sale of tractors, combines, hay tools and other agricultural and construction equipment.

Listen to the excitement in Abe’s voice as he tackles this new challenge with POET: Interview with Abe Hughes, POET

New President for POET-DSM Joint Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has announced that Dan Cummings will serve as first president for the joint venture.

“Dan has more than 25 years of experience in the energy sector, and we’re excited to have him leveraging that knowledge to grow cellulosic ethanol production for the world,” said Jeff Lautt, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “We look forward to Dan taking the reins and leading this joint venture into 2015.”

cummingsCummings, who previously served as President and Director of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, will oversee day-to-day operations of POET-DSM, represent the joint venture publicly, and coordinate functions between the parent companies. He will also act as the central point of contact for external relations, which includes all technology licensing activities for POET-DSM worldwide.

“This joint venture has already proven it can change the world, and I look forward to working with the individuals who helped make that happen,” Cummings said. “After two decades in the energy and clean tech sectors, I’m excited to start this new journey with POET-DSM.”

POET-DSM announced the startup phase in September for its 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will later ramp up to 25 million gallons per year. The Emmetsburg, Iowa plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” uses corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk to make renewable fuel. The joint venture is now marketing its LIBERTYTM Technology package to third parties for continued energy development.

POET Fights Pollution in Haiti with Ethanol Stoves

ethanolstove1An American ethanol company is fighting fighting pollution and deforestation in Haiti with ethanol-fueled cook stoves. This news release from POET says the company has partnered with with Project Gaia to replace wood-burning stoves with the clean-burning, ethanol-fueled ones.

Today, most Haitians rely on charcoal and firewood to cook their daily meals. Consequentially, the nation has experienced extreme deforestation over the years, and now less than 2 percent of Haiti’s forest cover remains. Additionally, the United Nations estimates that the average lifespan in Haiti is shortened by 6.6 years due to illnesses caused by household air pollution, which results from burning wood and charcoal indoors.

To help remedy this problem, POET is teaming up with Project Gaia to supply the ethanol needed to power clean-burning stoves. Dometic, another partner in the project, is supplying the stoves, which will eventually be made locally, and Novogaz is organizing local distribution in Haiti. POET has selected POET Biorefining – Jewell to produce the ethanol needed to fuel the cook stoves. Project partners gathered in Haiti this past April to develop and discuss a plan to bring U.S. ethanol to Haiti for home cooking.

“The vision for this project is clear: to bring clean-burning ethanol fuel to the homes in third-world countries in order to improve the standard of living and drive positive socio-economic change,” said [POET Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Jeff ]Broin. “For decades, we’ve known ethanol to be a clean, renewable fuel for our automobiles, and I look forward to bringing this same clean, renewable fuel to homes across the globe. With the help of our partners at Project Gaia, Dometic and Novogaz, I know we will be successful in our journey to bring clean cookstoves and clean energy to the world.”

POET is donating about 12,000 gallons of ethanol to jumpstart the project.

Project Gaia officials say that if every home in Africa, Developing Asia, Latin America and the Middle East currently using traditional solid fuels (charcoal, wood and other biomass substrates) would switch to ethanol fuel for cooking, it would save between 250 and 550 million forest acres per year.

POET-DSM Commends Partners in Cellulosic Ethanol Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM is commending its partners in a cellulosic ethanol venture. This company news release says POET is praising Suomen Bioetanoli Oy and the government of Finland after the Finnish government announced a 30 million euros grant to Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to build a plant that will convert wheat straw into about 24 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“Suomen Bioetanoli Oy is taking a bold step forward in growing Europe’s bioeconomy and expanding our sources for transportation fuel,” said Rob van Leen, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “Additionally, the grant award shows Finland’s firm commitment to growing sustainable energy production. Our joint venture partners look forward to working with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to make commercial cellulosic bioethanol a reality in Finland.”

POET and DSM are in discussions with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy on how to utilize process, yeast and enzyme technology from the respective companies for the conversion of cellulose to ethanol.

Dueling RFS Ads Have Same Tune

President Obama needs to overrule this misguided proposal from the EPA before it is too late and these new technologies move overseas. The fate of America’s advanced biofuel industry, along with the President’s clean energy legacy, are resting on his decision. Fuels America USA Today print ad

“Tell President Obama, stop playing politics – fix the RFS.”
American Petroleum Institute TV ad

fuels-americaBoth the American Petroleum Institute and Fuels America unveiled new media campaigns this week targeted at telling the White House what to do when it comes to volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both organizations held conference calls with reporters to announce the new campaigns.

The single, full page, USA Today ad that will run during Climate Week September 19-21 is a sharp contrast to the oil industry’s multi-million dollar television, radio, and online advertising campaign. “This has been a David and Goliath struggle all along,” said Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization on behalf of Fuels America. “The biofuels industry has been struggling against this Goliath oil industry that has spent millions and millions of dollars on ads.”

The biofuels industry ad stresses the opening of the first large, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants this year and warns that “the companies and investors looking to deploy the next wave of cellulosic ethanol facilities have put U.S. investment on hold” until a decision on the future of the RFS is made. The API ad calls the RFS “Washington red tape” and blames ethanol for raising food prices and contributing to hunger, even though corn prices are lower than breakeven for farmers this year, according to National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett. “We are selling corn today at about 35% of what we did just a couple of years ago, certainly below the cost of production for many of our growers,” he said.

API’s Bob Greco says they launched their campaign in part because of recent statements from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the agency will raise ethanol requirements based on the latest gasoline demand figures for 2014. “Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing politics with the RFS rule instead of doing what’s best for consumers,” Greco said. “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race—and the White House fear of losing control of the Senate—plays into this decision.”

“Politics are being played on this issue by both sides,” said Doggett. “I don’t think anyone should be surprised.”

Fuels America is a “coalition of organizations committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard and promoting the benefits of all types of renewable fuel already growing in America.” API is the “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.”

Listen to the Fuels America call, which also includes comments from POET-DSM’s Steve Hartig: Fuels America RFS Campaign call

Groups Congratulate Project LIBERTY’s Success

Groups from all around the country are congratulating POET-DSM Advanced Bioenergy on their successful start-up of Project LIBERTY, a 25 million per gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. This is the first commercial-scale biorefinery in the country that uses agricultural waste, such as residue from corn fields, to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Project Liberty Grand OpeningThe Department of Energy helped to support the project with approximately $100 million in investments and research. The Project LIBERTY ethanol plant uses biochemical conversion technologies such as yeast and enzymes to convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels.

“The Energy Department’s investments in projects like the LIBERTY biorefinery are helping to bring innovative, cost-cutting biofuel technologies online and diversify our transportation fueling options,” said DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Home-grown biofuels have the potential to further increase our energy security, stimulate rural economic development, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”

The biofuels industry came out in force to congratulate POET-DSM for their achievement. Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, of which POET is a member, said of the milestone, “Congratulations to POET-DSM. Growth Energy and the entire biofuels industry recognizes this massive achievement in the development and commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol, as well as the steadfast determination of innovative thinkers and leaders like those at POET-DSM who have made it possible. Years of research, ingenuity, perseverance and sheer determination have built the game changing cellulosic ethanol plant we are celebrating today.”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, vice chairman of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, was at the event and while IA Gov Terry Branstad during Project Liberty Grand Openingonsite called on the nation to recognize the accomplishment of the Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels cellulosic ethanol plant, and other plants that have now come into production, in helping transform the nation’s energy future.

“The cellulosic ethanol industry has arrived and is an important avenue for adding value to agricultural products and spurring economic and family income growth in rural America,” said Governor Branstad said. Companies such as Poet and DSM have invested more than $1 billion to build the next generation of ethanol plants that can make biofuels from non-grain feedstocks. In addition, companies like Poet-DSM, Abengoa, DuPont and others have constructed advanced biofuel plants, putting thousands of Americans to work in building these plants,” Governor Branstad remarked.

Attendees were able to tour the plant and Gov. Brandstad said of this experience, “Walking through this complex biorefinery today is inspiring. This plant demonstrates the innovative spirit and technological skill needed to meet the nation’s energy challenge. It’s an important milestone on the nation’s road to clean fuels, diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio, rural economic growth, giving consumers choices at the fuel pump.”

New USDA Report Validates Sustainability of Biomass

Experts from Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) have dtermined that after five years of soil nutrient data gathered at POET-DSM’s Project Liberty site are consistent with more than 500 site-years of additional soil research. The research team has concluded that the results show that biomass harvesting, which is now being done in the Emmetsburg, Iowa area, is consistent with proper farm management.

POET-DSM Project Liberty May 2014“Successful deployment of cellulosic bioenergy production operations such as the POET-DSM ‘Project Liberty’ program near Emmetsburg, Iowa can strengthen rural economies, help ensure energy security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without contributing to soil degradation – another global challenge,” said Dr. Douglas Karlen with USDA-ARS.

POET-DSM is currently finishing construction on its 25 million gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. That plant will use crop residue – corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. Since 2008, POET-DSM has commissioned soil research from Karlen and Dr. Stuart Birrell (Iowa State University BioSystems and Agricultural Engineering Department) to determine changes in soil quality under different biomass harvest scenarios. That data has now been aggregated with 500+ years of additional soil data from four separate sites.

Karlen said fields that would be good candidates for biomass harvesting have qualities including

  • Slopes of less than 3%
  • Consistent grain yield histories of 175 bu/acre
  • Good nutrient management plans with soil test records

At a 1 ton per acre harvest rate, which POET-DSM advocates, Nitrogen and Phosphorus applications should not need to change, but Potassium should be monitored. Karlen also said that by monitoring natural variability within a particular field, “even more stover may be harvested from some areas in a sustainable manner.” These recommendations are in line with previous recommendations from Karlen and Birrell for the Emmetsburg area.

“We’ve been working with farmers for almost eight years now to ensure that biomass harvesting is done right,” said POET Biomass Director Adam Wirt. “We’ve developed an EZ Bale harvest system that maximizes our cob content and minimizes stalk removal. It’s a quick, clean and effective method for farmers to get more revenue from their fields while managing what is often excess crop residue.”

Iowa Gov Signs Biodiesel, Ethanol Measures into Law

irfa-poetIowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed into law measures seen as good for ethanol and biodiesel in his state, a move much welcomed in an area that is a major player in the renewable fuel market. Branstad was joined by other state dignitaries, as well as officials from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) and ethanol producer POET, which hosted the signing of Senate File 2344 at its Coon Rapids, Iowa refinery today. The new law extends the state’s biodiesel production tax credit and enhances the state’s E15 retailer tax credit.

“I’m proud to sign this renewable fuels bill that received such wide, bipartisan support from the entire Iowa legislature and promotes E15, biodiesel and bio-butanol” stated Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “I have been a staunch supporter of protecting Iowa jobs and Iowa motorists’ access to cleaner, locally-produced renewable fuels, and this bill does exactly that.”

“Today is a great day for Iowa’s renewable fuels community,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “We commend Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds, and the entire Iowa legislature for standing beside renewable fuels, protecting Iowa jobs, and safeguarding consumer access to low-cost, homegrown biofuels.”

“We are excited Gov. Branstad selected our facility to mark the officially signing of this important bill,” said Bill Howell, General Manager of POET Biorefining – Coon Rapids. “The state of Iowa continues to be very supportive of the biofuels industry and this bill is yet another example of that support. Here at POET, we look forward to continued expansion of E15 throughout the state and nation, which will allow consumers to enjoy additional options at the pump.”

The law also defines biobutanol as a renewable fuel option for Iowans.

EPA and USDA Dispute Corn Stover Study

Two federal agencies joined the biofuels industry last week in seriously questioning the results of a University of Nebraska study that claims negative greenhouse gas emissions impacts in using corn stover for ethanol production.

corn_stover03 Photo: USDOE-NRELA statement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia about the report noted problems with “hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested” which she calls “an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices. As such, it does not provide useful information relevant to the lifecycle GHG emissions from corn stover ethanol. EPA’s lifecycle analysis assumes up to 50 percent corn stover harvest. EPA selected this assumption based on data in the literature and in consultation with agronomy experts at USDA to reflect current agricultural practices.”

During a forum on climate change right after the study hit the headlines last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also pointed out that it is based on a false premise. “The study started with an assumption about the way corn stover would be removed from the land. The problem with the assumption is no farmer in the country would actually take that much crop residue,” Vilsack said. “It’s not what’s happening on the ground. If you make the wrong assumption, you’re going to come up with the wrong conclusions.”

Work done by Dr. Douglas Karlen with the USDA Agricultural Research Service was cited several times in the UNL study. In response to questions from POET-DSM, which is using corn stover as feedstock at a plant in Iowa, Karlen said the study “makes unrealistic assumptions and uses citations out of context to reinforce the authors’ viewpoint.”

According to Dr. Karlen, the research fails to differentiate between responsible biomass removal and “excessive” biomass removal, projecting a removal rate of approximately 75% across the entire Corn Belt.

“Harvesting 75% of all corn stover produced in the 10 Corn Belt states is unrealistic, far greater than any projections made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in their projections for developing a sustainable bioenergy industry, and would certainly result in the depletion of soil organic matter.”