Getting to Know POET’s New CEO

During the Farm Progress Show, Cindy Zimmerman had the opportunity to sit down with new POET Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Lautt. Although he has been with the company for nearly eight years, he took the helm as president two years ago and several months ago was tapped as CEO.

Lautt has taken over in a tough year for the ethanol industry as it deals with a major drought that has affected the U.S. corn crop. The main feedstock for all POET ethanol plants is corn. Lautt said the plants are doing well but they are feeling the same pains as other ethanol producers. However, he said, the bigger problem for them is not the high corn prices but access to the market. The industry is currently capped at 10 percent of the fuel market and they are working hard to get equal access in the marketplace. A first step toward this is E15 and the first two stations selling E15 in the country are located in Kansas.

Similar to others in the ethanol industry, Lautt said his company is not in favor of a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He said that the legislation is working, the market is working, and knew-jerk decisions shouldn’t be made during a drought. Lautt noted that the RFS includes advanced biofuels, biodiesel and cellulosic fuels and implementing a waiver would not just hurt corn-based ethanol but all biofuels. He added that the industry doesn’t need a government solution.

Lautt also gave an update on Project Liberty, the company’s project to commercialize cellulosic ethanol using corn stover. One of the things they are learning right now is how to harvest the stover as well as store the stover, which may vary based on the environmental state of stover (i.e. wet, dry, etc.).

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Jeff Lautt where he also discusses some new technologies in the pipeline: Getting to Know POET's new CEO

2012 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

Latest Soil Research Supports Biomass Harvesting

Good news is emerging from the most recent soil data of the Project LIBERTY biomass harvesting research in northwest Iowa. Harvesting crop residue can be a responsible part of good farm management.

Project LIBERTY is a commercial-scale, cellulosic ethanol plant that is scheduled to begin operations in Emmetsburg, Iowa in late 2013. The plant will use corncobs, leaves, husk, and some stalk and is expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol growing to approximately 25 million gallons per year. It is the first project of the POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels Joint Venture.

For the last four years, Project LIBERTY has commissioned soil sustainability work from researchers with Iowa State University and the USDA. They have studied six different harvest methods in an effort to provide area farmers with data to help them make decisions about biomass harvesting.

“Basically, at the removal level that POET-DSM recommends, there is no reduction in yield, and removal rates are well within the sustainability limits,” said Dr. Stuart Birrell with Iowa State University.

Birrell and Dr. Douglas Karlen of USDA-ARS led the research.

The most recent data is consistent with previous years. Birrell said nutrient replacement is minimal, with no evidence of a need to replace nitrogen. Based on the research, POET-DSM recommends to farmers the addition of 10-15 pounds of potash when soil tests indicate it is needed. The effects of biomass harvesting on soil carbon have also proven to be minimal according to measurements of soil organic carbon, Birrell said, more an effect of yield and tillage intensity than biomass removal.

POET-DSM contracts for about 1 ton of biomass per acre with participating farmers. That’s less than 25 percent of the available above-ground biomass. They are contracting for 85,000 tons this year, and once operational, Project LIBERTY will require about 285,000 tons per year.

14 POET Plants Producing Voila

POET is off and running with the installation and production of Voilà, its branded corn oil that is used to produce biodiesel. Fourteen plants have installed the technology increasing annual production capacity to nearly 235 million pounds per year. This is enough corn oil to produce nearly 31 million gallons of biodiesel. Voilà technology was first installed in January 2011 at the POET Biorefining-Hudson facility.

“We’ve had a great response from Voilà customers, and I’m excited to be able to expand production to meet more of the demand,” POET CEO Jeff Lautt said.

POET has been expanding the use of each kernel of corn for many years and today the company produces animal feed including Dakota Gold distillers dried grains. In addition, five plants capture carbon dioxide and are sold to companies such as beverage producers.

Lautt added,  “At POET, we’re focused on getting the most value from corn as we possibly can. Ethanol is obviously a big part of that, but the many other products we produce are also very important to our business. We’re also working hard to develop even more biorefined products.”

Growth Energy Launches Flex Fuel Finder at 2012 FEW

Right after Growth Energy launched a new website featuring a Flex Fuel Finder application, I got to chat with Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO, and Jeff Broin, Growth Energy Board Member and CEO of POET. They each expressed the positive impact RFS has had on the ethanol industry and the importance of keeping it implemented. Along that line they discussed what tools Growth Energy has put into place to educate the general consumer about E15 and Flex Fuel pumps.

Growth Energy launched a new user-friendly interface for EthanolRetailer.com, a website that seeks to outline the benefits of ethanol and the growing availability of Flex Fuel pumps. The website launch is part of Growth Energy’s new national campaign to increase awareness of E15.

The website is a comprehensive and easy to use resource for current and prospective ethanol retailers across the company, as well as consumers. It also features a Flex Fuel Finder application, which simplifies the process of locating ethanol blend pumps. The application is accessible from both the website and as a smartphone app, making it easier for Americans to locate cheaper, cleaner fuel while on the go.

Listen my interview with Tom Buis and Jeff Broin here: Interview with Growth Energy

2012 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Bob Casper Named Chief Commercial Officer of POET

Bob Casper, President of POET Ethanol Products, was named Chief Commercial Officer of POET. In this newly created position, Casper will oversee the marketing and distribution of all products as well as risk management for POET.

Since 2000, Casper has led POET Ethanol Products, which markets all of the ethanol and carbon dioxide for POET’s network of 27 biorefineries. Before serving as president of POET Ethanol Products, Casper spent 21 years leading several energy-related divisions for Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries. Casper serves on the Board of Directors of POET, LLC and Growth Energy, the advocacy group representing producers and supporters of ethanol. He graduated from Trinity University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology.

“Under Bob’s 12 years of leadership, POET ethanol products has become one of the largest and most successful marketers of ethanol in the world,” said POET CEO Jeff Lautt. “Bob has been instrumental in building the market for ethanol to where it is now in over 90 percent of the gasoline gallons sold in the U.S. In the past few years, Bob has successfully managed numerous challenges from the blend wall and expanding export markets to the expiration of ethanol tax credits and the introduction of E15.”

In this new role, Casper will continue to lead POET Ethanol Products, which markets ethanol, carbon dioxide and denaturant. He will also oversee POET Risk Management and POET Nutrition. POET Risk Management provides commodity futures risk management, corn and natural gas derivatives trading and corn and natural gas procurement services for the network of biorefineries. POET Nutrition markets POET’s branded products: Dakota Gold® high protein animal feed, Voila American Corn Oil and Inviz™ natural zein.

“After working for over 20 years in the oil industry, I am passionate about the role that renewable products can play in our world. That’s why I got into this business and am excited about this expanded role,” Casper said. “We have excellent teams in product marketing and risk management, and I’m looking forward to working with them to develop markets for our growing portfolio of products and manage the company’s risk.”

Broin Steps Down as CEO of POET

The founder of the country’s largest ethanol company is stepping down as CEO.

POET founder Jeff Broin will continue managing and leading the company’s board as Executive Chairman, while Jeff Lautt has been named CEO. Lautt has been with POET since 2005, serving as President of the company for the past year.

In stepping down as CEO, Broin says he wants to spend more time with his family and take on new challenges. “I will continue to be involved in strategic direction for the company as Executive Chairman of the Board, and leave the day-to-day operations to our very capable management team. I would not have done this had I not been convinced that the company would be in good hands. Under the leadership of Jeff Lautt and the entire management team at POET, I have confidence that the company will continue to lead the industry into the future.” Broin is married and has three children. In his more than two decades of leadership, POET has grown from 1 million gallons of ethanol that first year to an annual capacity in excess of 1.6 billion gallons.

In addition to serving as Executive Chairman of POET’s Board of Directors, Broin will continue to speak out on behalf of ethanol and agriculture as co-chairman of Growth Energy. He also intends to spend more time guiding the activities of his newly created foundation, “Teach a Man to Fish” which will spread the power of agriculture throughout the developing world.

“For the past 25 years, Jeff Broin has led POET and the entire ethanol industry,” said Lautt. “He has grown POET from one small plant to a leadership position in the global renewable fuels industry. With the help of the entire team at POET, I will do my best to continue building on the success the company has achieved.”

Prior to being named president of POET in March 2011, Lautt served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Operations where he was responsible for all operational business units within the company. Lautt spent fourteen years in the emergency vehicle industry where he served as President of a Midwestern-based fire truck manufacturing company before joining POET. Lautt has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Engineering from South Dakota State University.

Project LIBERTY Groundbreaking Tuesday

POET–DSM Advanced Biofuels will be celebrating the start of construction Tuesday on Project LIBERTY, the planned commercial-scale ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

The joint venture between Dutch life sciences firm Royal DSM and ethanol giant POET announced the groundbreaking when the partnership was made public in January. “The joint venture anticipates that we’ll complete construction of Project LIBERTY and start producing cellulosic ethanol in the second half of 2013,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin. “Together, we’ll produce a home-grown, renewable fuel that can create jobs, clean our environment and make us less reliant on foreign oil. This partnership has the potential to change the world.”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and representatives from POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels will take part in the formal groundbreaking for the plant starting at 10:30 Tuesday morning in Emmetsburg.

Low-Fat Distillers Grains for Dairy

POET is targeting dairy producers with the introduction of a new low-fat distillers grains product.

The South Dakota-based ethanol producer notes that research indicates its new Dakota Gold Low Fat dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) can be fed to dairy cattle at a higher inclusion rate than traditional DDGS.

According to Kip Karges, PhD, Technical Services and Research Director at POET Nutrition, the product has just a 5 percent fat content, which offers a new opportunity for dairy operations that have had to limit DDGS use in the past because DDGS fat content can cause milk fat depression issues. “Dairy operations can feed more low fat DDGS to their livestock by using Dakota Gold Low Fat,” Karges said. “That will allow for optimum milk production while lowering ration cost.”

General research into the subject has shown that increasing concentrations of low-fat distillers grains have correlated to increasing efficiency of milk production. “When feeding regular DDGS you really have to limit feeds with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and may cause limitations in formulation procedures,” said Paul Kononoff, Associate Professor of Dairy Nutrition/Dairy Nutrition Specialist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. “The reduction in fat in low fat DDGS allows for higher inclusion of the co-product without the worries of milk fat depression.” Kononoff and others as the University of Nebraska have performed trials for POET and will be releasing their data to the public this summer.

A deliberate research and development process was followed in bringing Dakota Gold Low Fat DDGS to market. The new Dakota Gold LF DDGS option is possible because of POET’s Voila™ Corn Oil production, which removes oil from DDGS. The resulting low fat DDGS have been researched and will continued to be researched to find new ways in which distillers grains, the second-largest traded feed ingredient on the market, can be used to produce protein for human consumption. Nutritionists at POET are providing animal research data to nutritionists and the feed industry in general regarding Dakota Gold LF DDGS. Research and nutrition details are available at the Dakota Gold website.

POET Partners With DSM for Cellulosic Ethanol

Ethanol giant POET is partnering with a Netherlands-based life sciences company with the intention of making advanced biofuels a reality by next year.

POET has announced a joint venture with Royal DSM to commercially demonstrate and license cellulosic bio-ethanol based on their proprietary and complementary technologies. POET–DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is scheduled to start production in the second half of 2013 at one of the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in the United States.

The two partners will produce cellulosic ethanol from corn crop residue through a biological process using enzymatic hydrolysis followed by fermentation. The first commercial demonstration of the technology will be at Project Liberty, which is currently being constructed adjacent to POET’s existing corn ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The initial capacity is expected to be 20 million gallons in the first year, growing to approximately 25 million gallons per year.

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, intends to replicate and license the technology to additional plants to be built at the other 26 corn ethanol facilities in POET’s network and license it to other producers in the United States and the rest of the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in the United States as many as 350-400 new bio-refineries will have to be constructed by 2022 to meet the volume requirement of 16 billion gallons/year of cellulosic bio-ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

DSM and POET will each hold a 50% share in the joint venture, which will be headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The initial capital expenditure by the joint venture in Project Liberty will amount to about $250 million. The closing of the joint venture is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

As a result of the joint venture project, POET has also announced its intent to decline the $105 million loan guarantee it was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in September. POET will officially decline the guarantee prior to drawing any funds when the joint venture closes.

Listen to some comments from DSM Managing Board Chairman/CEO Feike Sijbesma and POET CEO Jeff Broin and questions from media during a telephone press conference today: POET-DSM press conference

POET Pipeline Project Postponed

Without a federal loan guarantee, POET has put a proposed dedicated ethanol pipeline project on hold for now, according to company officials.

“We continue to believe that the pipeline is a viable project with tremendous benefits for the country,” said POET Founder & CEO Jeff Broin, “But with little prospects for a federal loan guarantee in the near future we are currently focused on other efforts.”

In March of 2009, POET joined Magellan Midstream Partners to study the feasibility of a dedicated ethanol pipeline. Magellan announced that they placed their interest in the project on hold early last year.

During the period when POET and Magellan were working together, they had conducted preliminary studies of a dedicated ethanol pipeline, but from the beginning they believed that financing for a project of this size would be challenging without a federal loan guarantee.

“While a pipeline could improve the efficiency of ethanol distribution and lower costs for motorists, the system that we have in place today has allowed ethanol to flow seamlessly into more than 90% of the gasoline sold,” said Broin.

POET Continues to Cut Water Use at Ethanol Plants

POET is now more than 75 percent of the way to achieving its water reduction goal of one billion gallons annually by 2015 at the company’s ethanol plants.

This year POET reduced water use by more than 770 million gallons compared to 2009 by using the company’s Total Water Recovery System at their 18th ethanol production facility, POET Biorefining in Chancellor, South Dakota.

“We’ve made reducing water use a priority at our plants, and it shows,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “I’m confident that we can reach our overall water use goal.”

Eighteen of POET’s 26 ethanol plants now have Total Water Recovery Systems under the company’s “Ingreenuity” initiative that was instituted in March 2010.

POET Ramps Up Production of Corn Oil for Biodiesel

By the end of 2011, POET will be producing enough corn oil as feedstock for 12 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

POET has been selling Voilà corn oil for biodiesel and feed markets since January. With its patent-pending technology expanding to a total of six plants, POET has increased its capacity.

POET Biorefining in Hudson, South Dakota, was the first to produce Voilà. Since then, the technology has been installed in five more POET plants, with more on the way in 2012. Plants that are producing corn oil today are POET Biorefining – Emmetsburg, Gowrie, Jewell and Hanlontown in Iowa. POET Biorefining – Laddonia, Mo., will be coming online next week. The six plants’s combined capacity is about 100 million pounds of corn oil per year.

“Voilà has been a very strong part of POET’s business this year, and I’m excited to see more plants getting this technology,” POET founder and CEO Jeff Broin said. “The more we can diversify into new profitable products, the more successful our plants will be.”

Voilà is just another item on POET’s growing list of products created at its plants. In addition to ethanol, POET produced quality products for animal feed including Dakota Gold distillers dried grains. POET also captures carbon dioxide at seven of its plants for sale to beverage producers, and the company last year unveiled Inviz, a zein product used to replace petroleum-based films and coatings.

See more on Voilà from POET in the following video:

POET CEO Update on Cellulosic Ethanol

Ethanol industry leader POET is making “tremendous strides” in the development of ethanol from biomass for commercial use, according to company CEO Jeff Broin.

Broin talked with farm broadcasters at last week’s National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting last week in Kansas City to provide an update on Project LIBERTY, a cellulosic ethanol plant project in Emmetsburg, Iowa. “When we got into this research ten years ago, it was a long shot,” Broin said in an interview with Jody Heemstra of KWAT Radio in Watertown, SD. “Today, we’re actually less than $3 on production costs so we’re competitive with gasoline and we’re very excited about that.”

Broin says they have cut enzyme costs by about a third and are planning to use the lignin from a grain ethanol plant next door to power both plants. “We’ll have a 25 million gallon cellulosic plant next to a 50 million gallon grain plant and there will be virtually no fossil fuel used to power those facilities,” Broin says.

Listen to all of Heemstra’s interview with Broin here: Jeff Broin, POET CEO

Farmers Harvest Biomass for Cellulosic Ethanol

Farmers in north central Iowa have harvested 61,000 tons of corn crop residue to produce cellulosic ethanol, but delivery to POET’s Project LIBERTY plant in Emmetsburg is contingent on funding of a federal program that provides incentives for biomass production.

Some 100 farmers are waiting for word on the status of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in the 2012 federal budget before delivering the bales to POET’s 22-acre biomass storage site in Emmetsburg, where the commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery is being constructed.

The biomass harvest is 5,000 tons more than last year and represents an additional 15 contracts with area farmers. POET has a target of 285,000 tons of biomass per year for Project LIBERTY to produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year starting in 2013.

“Biomass harvesting is moving along as planned, and I’m confident we’ll have a large and consistent supply of corn cobs and light stover once Project LIBERTY is running,” POET founder and CEO Jeff Broin said. “Both the farmers and POET Biomass personnel have learned a lot in the last few years about best practices in biomass harvesting, and that experience will pay dividends.”

The goal of these early harvests is to streamline the process for harvest, storage and delivery of biomass to Project LIBERTY. Approximately 300-400 bales will be part of ongoing biomass storage research, and up to 1,500 bales could be used for additional research.

DOE Finalizes Cellulosic Ethanol Loan Guarantee

The Department of Energy has finalized a $105 million loan guarantee to support the development of one of the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants.

POETThe loan guarantee and financing allows POET to construct Project LIBERTY, a 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

“This project represents a pioneering effort to make broad scale deployment of cellulose ethanol a reality,” said Secretary of Energy Chu making the announcement on Friday. ”Producing the next generation of biofuels can not only reduce America’s oil dependency, it can also create vast new economic opportunities for rural Americans.”

POET estimates the project will fund approximately 200 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs and generate around $14 million in new revenue to area farmers who will provide the corn crop residue.

The first commercial cellulosic ethanol plants will demonstrate that the 1 billion tons of biomass available in the United States can be a major force in overcoming the country’s reliance on foreign oil, POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “Financing has been a key hurdle to getting the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant up and running. We’re excited to show the world the tangible results of a decade of work by our researchers and engineers,” said Broin.

Project LIBERTY will be located next to the existing grain ethanol plant, POET Biorefining Emmetsburg, and will share roads, land and other infrastructure. Additionally, the cellulosic plant will produce biogas as a co-product, enough to completely power itself and eliminate the majority of the natural gas required to operate the adjacent grain ethanol plant.