Project LIBERTY Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Update

POETplant1A 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant is on track to start cranking out the advanced biofuel early next year. Officials with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuel’s Project LIBERTY updated progress on the refinery in Northwest Iowa during the Platts Biofuels and Chemicals conference.

“We had a great summer for construction and have been able to stay on track to start producing cellulosic bio-ethanol early next year,” [Steve Hartig, General Manager – Licensing for POET-DSM] said. “It’s impressive to see this technology coming to life in Emmetsburg.”

[The plant] will be one of the first plants of its kind in the nation. It will use cob bales – made up of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk – to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic bio-ethanol annually, later ramping up to 25 million gallons.

Hartig said the progress to date includes:

Biomass receiving and grinding building is complete and biomass processing equipment is nearly installed.
Saccharification, fermentation tanks are complete.
Equipment installation and pipe work is ongoing.
Cooling tower construction is underway.
Underground utilities are nearing completion.

About 300 workers are on the site daily, making preparations for the early 2014 start.

The most recent construction photos are available on POET-DSM’s Flickr site.

Agronomic Data Shows Viability of Biomass Harvesting

The Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is in full swing in Omaha, Nebraska with several hundred industry members on hand for the event. Today POET-DSM, an event sponsor, has announced that according to the latest data from researchers with Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) harvesting crop residue for cellulosic ethanol production is consistent with good farm management.

Biomass Harvest for Project LIBERTY

The work was commissioned by POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to ensure the sustainability of the joint venture’s plans to build cellulosic ethanol plants and license technology to producers in the U.S. and abroad. The research, led by Dr. Doug Karlen with USDA and Dr. Stuart Birrell with ISU, was conducted in fields near Emmetsburg, Iowa, the site of Project LIBERTY, POET-DSM’s 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant currently under construction. The facility will use corn-crop residue – cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. It is expected to come online in early 2014.

Now in its fifth year, the research evaluated the possible effects of biomass removal on soil nutrient levels and grain yields over various rates of removal. POET-DSM’s proposed rate of removal is approximately 1 ton per acre, which is 20-25 percent of the above-ground biomass.

“In summary, both grain yields and soil nutrient levels were not significantly affected by stover harvest treatments,” Birrell said in a research summary.

Fields with yields above 175 bushels per acre could remove up to 2 tons of biomass per acre, according to Birrell and Karlen. Based on the data, POET-DSM recommends no changes in nitrogen or phosphorous applications, due to residue removal. Some biomass providers could benefit from adding a small amount of potassium. Continue reading

California Court Rules Against LCFS

A California appeals court this week overturned a regulation implementing the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

poetCalifornia’s Fifth District Court of Appeal issued its decision in POET, LLC v. California Air Resources Board (ARB) on Monday, ruling for POET on every one of its substantive challenges and reversing the decision of the Superior Court affirming the LCFS. The Court also ruled that ARB must, among other things, re-evaluate the LCFS’s overall environmental impacts, and allow public comment on several controversial issues including the carbon intensity values attributed to ethanol based on the theory of indirect land use change.

South Dakota-based ethanol producer POET issued the following statement about the ruling:

“We are pleased the court recognized the fundamental flaws in ARB’s process for implementing the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The Court ruled in our favor on every challenge we raised on appeal, each of which went to a different problem with the approval process. The Court has also made clear that ARB must re-evaluate the LCFS’s recognized potential to increase smog-forming pollutants, recirculate its environmental document evaluating the impacts of the LCFS and, significantly, allow public comment on several controversial issues, including the carbon intensity values attributed to land use changes.”

The Court ruling allows ARB to continue to enforce the LCFS regulation at the moment, but prohibits the agency from ramping up enforcement of the regulation beyond the current 2013 levels

POET-DSM Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Ready in ’14

The POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant is on track to start in 2014. The announcement for the plant was made at the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo., where Wade Roby from POET took part in a panel discussion.

FEW13-poetdsm-hartigSteve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM, talked with Joanna and said Project LIBERTY, currently under construction and co-located with POET’s grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will turn bales of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk into 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year, with plans to move that amount up to 25 million gallons.

“We’re in the middle of construction, so we have a lot of the concrete done, the large biomass building, a lot of the tanks for the fermentation are up and running, and basically we’re on schedule to start up end of first quarter, second quarter next year,” Steve said.

He said they’ve been working with the local farmers over the past five years on how to collect and bring in the corn stover biomass, bringing in 70,000 tons last year and expecting to bring in 120,000 tons this year and up to 250,000 tons next year. Steve points out that the biomass can be stored out in the weather for at least a year, and he defends against criticisms that they are taking valuable nutrients off the field.

“The fields with the high productivity, high-yield corn crops, you have about five tons of stover per acre that’s left on the field after the harvest. We’re taking about one ton of that,” and citing their work with Iowa State University, he said that taking some stover off the field is actually good for it. “If we can take a bit more we will, but we’ll do it slow, steady and in a conservative way, working closely with the farmers and local universities.”

Steve said they’re building this plant together with DSM, and that’s the model they’re carrying forward – taking the technology to other companies and partnering with existing facilities, especially corn ethanol plants, and he believes they could even take the technology internationally.

Finally, he concluded that they have learned a lot building this plant and look forward to their next project going up next year. And they’re sticking with cellulosic ethanol.

“Cellulosic ethanol is real. It’s been called the ‘fictional fuel,’ [but] big companies like ours are putting a lot of commitment to it.”

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Steve here: Steve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM

Governors Tell Congress to Support RFS

governor-biofuelsThe Governor’s Biofuels Coalition met in Sioux Falls Wednesday and sent a letter to members of Congress in support of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The letter from the 30 governors represented by the Coalition, led by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, urges Congress to stay the course on the RFS. “As governors who see firsthand the impact that the RFS has had on our states, we urge you to reject any modifications to the RFS,” the letter reads. “By intentionally using misinformation, biofuels opponents damage the nation’s economy, environment, and energy security.”

The governors’ meeting was held at the headquarters of POET and CEO Jeff Lautt says Governor Branstad is a strong defender of biofuels. “He’s seen first hand the success of what this industry’s done for America on the energy side but also what it’s done on the ag side,” said Lautt.

The Iowa Biodiesel Board and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association both praised their governor’s leadership and appreciate the strong stand taken by the coalition to support the RFS.

POET Biorefining-Macon Suspends Production Due to Drought

POET Biorefining – Macon is temporarily suspending plant operations effective Feb. 1 due primarily to a lack of available local corn caused in part by last summer’s drought. All of the plant’s 44 team members will remain employed at their current hours. Many will assist in installation of the approximately $14.5 million in upgrades to the plant that will occur during the down time. The plant will also continue to purchase corn for future use as it is available. There is currently no timeline for resuming production.

POET Biorefining Macon EmployeesThe biorefinery started operation in 2000 ad is located in one of the worst-hit areas of last season’s drought, leaving it unable to source corn locally or bring corn in from other areas at a competitive price.

“Macon has been a very successful plant within the POET network,” said POET CEO Jeff Lautt. “Once conditions improve, I know the plant and its hard-working team members will continue to make POET-Biorefining – Macon a star.”

The plant is in the early stages of construction on a number of upgrades that will improve profitability further once production resumes. Those include:

  • Voilà corn oil technology, which will provide an additional product for new revenue
  • Full BPX technology, POET’s patented “no-cook” process that significantly reduces heat/energy use
  • A new control system
  • A new, more efficient evaporator
  • A new administration building and scale house

Board President John Eggleston added, “We’re all excited to see these upgrades taking effect. It’s investments like these that will ensure continued long-term success for the plant.”

POET Producing Corn Oil at 25 Biorefineries

viola-logoNearly all of POET’s ethanol plants have now producing corn oil: 25 of their 27 plants have installed corn oil technology bringing its total capacity to approximately 250,000 tons per year, enough feedstock to produce 68 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Branded Voilà, POET has been selling the corn oil since January 2011 with its ethanol plant in Hudson, South Dakota the first.

“Having a more diverse portfolio of products has been a benefit for POET, particularly when ethanol margins are challenging,” said POET CEO Jeff Lautt. “Expanding our product line is an important part of our strategy for growth.”

According to Lautt, one of POET’s four four Ingreenuity goals is to increase production of bio-based products, and corn oil is playing an important role in reaching that goal.

“There’s a bio-based solution to so much of what petroleum supplies today. It’s exciting for me to see POET playing a large part in providing those solutions,” added Lautt.

Obama Wins. Did Renewable Energy Win?

President Barack Obama has been elected to a second term to lead the United States. While not clairvoyant,  I suspect the defining turn in support for Obama was the convergence of hurricane Sandy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg throwing his support behind Obama with the statement that he is the climate change President. If he is in fact the president for climate change, this should mean positive things for renewable energy. But for this to happen, all of our national and state leaders will need to be climate change leaders.

On the heels of the President Obama’s winning speech, many in the renewable energy industry, such as the National Corn Growers Association, lauded his win and called for the continuation of the path toward change that would lead to energy independence.

“The ethanol industry appreciates the support of President Obama and his administration over the last four years and we look forward to furthering our work with them, continuing to produce a cleaner burning, home-grown renewable fuel,” said Tom Buis, CEO for Growth Energy. He added that his organization is looking forward to working with the president, his administration and Congress in a bipartisan manner to help expand access for biofuels.

POET’s CEO Jeff Lautt said in a statement that his company felt that the role of renewable energy was evident throughout the election and he is optimistic for the future of the biofuels industry.  “As President Obama noted this fall, ‘Biofuels are an important part of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home.’ I look forward to continued support for the Renewable Fuel Standard to ensure that more and more drivers have access to clean fuel produced here in the United States,” he added.

It’s going to take more than industry associations and alternative energy companies to work for success. It will also take consumer organizations rising up from local communities to spur change and the first step in this is better energy and climate education for all Americans (yes, our country is full of energy and environmental illiterate citizens). There’s a lot to do. Let’s get back to work.

POET-DSM Partners with ANDRITZ

POET-DSM has signed on the International Technology Group ANDRITZ, to supply a two-step biomass treatment process for the commercial-scale cellulosic bioethanol plant under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa known as Project LIBERTY. The technology was designed to help draw out available sugar in the collected biomass, in this case corn stover, corn cobs, and husks, so it can be converted into cellulosic ethanol.

The ANDRITZ technology is a two-stage process that includes a vertical reactor, an interstage washer and then the continuous steam explosion technology (Advanced SteamEx process) to draw out available sugars from the cellulose material. It’s those sugars combined with Project LIBERTY’s enzyme and yeast technologies – that will get converted into ethanol.

“We’ve been working with ANDRITZ for over four years, collaborating on the development for a treatment process that aligns with our conversion technology development here at POET-DSM, and we selected them to provide that treatment process,” said James Moe, POET-DSM board member. “We’re happy to have them on-board. To say this has been quite a process is an understatement.”

Jay Miele, VP and General Manager with ANDRITZ Inc. added, “Our design teams have been working closely together over the past four years to optimize our Advanced Steam-Ex pretreatment technology for Project LIBERTY. POET-DSM’s dedication to becoming a leader in cellulosic bio-ethanol is quite evident to us. We look forward to successfully completing our part of the delivery for Project LIBERTY, and we are eager to work together on future projects.”

Constructed is scheduled to be complete in late 2013. In preparation, local farmers are increasing the amount of biomass delivered to the site in an effort to fine-tune storage efforts and refine the biomass collection process. Harvest goals for this fall were to collect nearly 85,000 tons of corn cobs and light stover. Eventually, the biorefinery will need nearly 285,000 tons of biomass per year once at full production capacity of 20 million gallons per year.

DF Cast: Fuels America to Combat RFS Waiver Talk

A new coalition forms to fight back against the push against the Renewable Fuels Standard… a fight prompted by the drought and the pressure the drought is causing on the most common feedstock for ethanol, corn. During a recent news conference, former congressman and now CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization… or BIO… Jim Greenwood was one of the leaders of the new coalition dubbed Fuels America, a diverse group of interests, including renewable fuels, national security, renewable energy and other stakeholders. Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol, the National Corn Growers Association, BIO and the Advanced Ethanol Council are part of Fuels America, as well as several biofuel companies, such as DuPont, POET and Novozymes.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, listen in as Greenwood is joined by Novozymes president Adam Monroe, Marion (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce president Pam Hall, and ZeaChem president and CEO Jim Imbler who make the case for preserving the RFS.

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