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01/13/2009 10:33 AM     print story email story  

Poet Producing Cellulosic Ethanol on Pilot Scale

SustainableBusiness.com News

Following a successful start-up in 4Q08, Poet Research Center in Scotland, S.D. is now producing cellulosic ethanol at a pilot scale, the company announced.

The Scotland plant is producing ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year using corn cobs as feedstock. The $8 million endeavor is a precursor to the $200 million Project Liberty, a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant scheduled to begin production in 2011.

"The start-up of the pilot scale facility has been extremely smooth," said Poet CEO Jeff Broin, who was in Scotland to announce the opening of the plant. "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."

The pilot plant is located in Scotland, S.D., the site of a 9 million gallon per year starch ethanol production facility and a starch pilot facility. Poet is pursuing an integrated starch- and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery model that could see cellulosic production capacity added to their 26 plants that currently produce 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol from corn per year.

POET said its process provides the environmental benefits of cellulosic ethanol--an 87% greenhouse gas reduction over gasoline according to Argonne National Laboratory--without having significant impact on the environment.

Cellulosic ethanol is required to become a larger and larger part of the U.S. fuel supply, as mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Harvesting biomass has been a key challenge to commercializing cellulosic ethanol. Poet’s process provides the opportunity for farmers to expand their current role in ethanol production by harvesting cobs along with corn. Ag equipment manufacturers have worked closely with Poet to provide farmers with cob-harvesting options that will be available soon, the company said.

Poet is the largest ethanol producer in the world according to the Renewable Fuels Association. The company currently operates 26 production facilities in the United States and produces more than 1.54 billion gallons of ethanol annually.

In Related News...

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said on Thursday cellulosic ethanol production could "explode" by 2012 if a commercialized facility to produce the second generation of biofuels is successful.

Schafer told reporters that by January 20 USDA will award a loan guarantee to Range Fuels, based in Colorado, to build a commercial-size plant capable of producing 100 million gallons of ethanol annually from woodchips.

Read the full story at the link below.

Website: http://www.reuters.com/article/smallBusinessNews/idUSTRE50869B20090109



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