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POET Reaps Iowa’s Support

By Staff | Sep 16, 2008

A grant of $14,750,000 has been awarded to POET Project Liberty. The grant was approved last week by the Iowa Power Fund Board for a commercial size cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.

“This is the first big award from the Power Fund,” said State Senator Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg. “The Legislature approved $100,000 Power Fund, which will expend $25 million per year over the next four years.”

This funding will help with the initial research, development and demonstration costs with this first-of-its-kind integrated biorefinery.

In addition to the $14.7 million that was approved Wednesday, the State of Iowa has awarded another $5.2 million in Economic Development funds. The total amount of funds from the State of Iowa is $20 million.

Objectives of the project:

• Conduct research, design and development leading to the construction and operation of a demonstration biorefinery at commercial scale, that produces ethanol from a lignocellulose-based feedstock and generates energy from renewable resources for use at the biorefinery.

• Conduct research, design and development relative to biomass harvesting, storage, transportation and processing of biomass for purposes of conversion to ethanol and/or alternative energy.

• Integrate the demonstration biorefinery into a currently operating commercial scale facility that produces ethanol from corn.

• Improve the efficient use of energy, in the integrated biorefinery.

• Validate new or exiting technologies and commercial-scale economics in the conversion of the lignocellulose-based feedstock to ethanol and/or alternative energy.

• Enable replication of technologies at other biorefineries.

Senator Kibbie noted, “This is the only cellulose project in the nation that’s going to deal with stover and cornstalk. This is the process they’re using on a pilot project now in use at Scotland, SD. There is the potential of reducing the natural gas used by 80-percent, and increasing the amount of ethanol produced per acre by 27-percent.”

POET Welcomes

Iowa’s Support

POET CEO Jeff Broin welcomed the decision of the Iowa Power Fund to commit $14 million in POET’s commercial cellulosic ethanol project.

“One of the reasons we decided to build our first cellulosic ethanol production facility in Iowa is because of the state’s deep commitment to renewable energy,” Broin said. “This is an investment that ensures the state of Iowa will continue to be a leader as the ethanol industry expands to include cellulosic production.”

In their application to the Power Fund, POET laid out the significant benefits that the project could hold for the state of Iowa. In Emmetsburg, where POET will expand an existing ethanol production facility to include the production of cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs, the capital investment will be more than $200 million and it will create as least 35 additional jobs. With cobs currently valued at $30-60 per ton, farmers in the Emmetsburg area would see an increase in revenue of $5.4-$10.8 million.

The potential long term benefits are much larger. POET plans to add cellulosic ethanol production to its six other facilities in the state of Iowa, and potentially license the technology to all biorefineries in Iowa. This could represent an additional capital investment of $2 billion and create 2,700 new jobs across the state. For the farmers of Iowa, it presents an opportunity for $150-300 million in annual revenue from an agricultural waste product.

“We are humbled and honored to have the state of Iowa invest alongside us in the development of cellulosic ethanol production,” Broin said. “For ethanol to continue to save consumers money at the pump, decrease our dangerous reliance on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must develop cellulosic ethanol. Due to the infancy of the technology and the high cost of construction, it will take a broad collaboration from private companies, government agencies and universities for the cellulosic ethanol industry to thrive. The state of Iowa clearly understands that and is determined to take a leadership role in this emerging industry.”

Iowa Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge echoed Broin’s comments. “For years, Iowa has been a leader in renewable fuels innovation, and with today’s award, we will continue to lead the way,” said Lt. Governor Judge. “The new POET facility in Emmetsburg will be one of the first in the nation to produce cellulosic ethanol. This represents the next generation in biofuels, and another step towards energy independence.”

Project LIBERTY, the transformation of a 50 MGPY grain-to-ethanol plant in Emmetsburg into an integrated corn-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery, is jointly funded by POET and the United States Department of Energy (DOE). Once complete, the facility will produce 125 MGPY, of which 25 million gallons will be from corn fiber and corn cobs. By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain ethanol plant, POET will be able to produce 11 percent more ethanol from a bushel of corn, 27 percent more from an acre of corn, while reducing fossil fuel consumption and water use.