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.

POET Forms Biomass Alliance with Earth Partners

POET announced a new alliance this week with The Earth Partners to develop “a sustainable supply of biomass that helps restore degraded land.” The project, called Conservation Biomass, will initially be used for heat and power generation and eventually liquid fuel production.

As part of their ongoing ecological restoration work, The Earth Partners will work with farmers and conservation property landowners to grow and sustainably harvest biomass from land with invasive vegetation or land where restorative plant species are grown. POET will then evaluate the best use of the biomass to generate heat, power or for liquid fuel production.

The initial project will deliver Conservation Biomass to POET Biorefining – Chancellor, a 100 million-gallon-per-year grain ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D. that burns wood waste and landfill gas in a solid fuel boiler to generate all of its process steam. Burning biomass at the plant to generate power will allow the partnership to test the commercial viability of the Conservation Biomass business model at scale. POET and The Earth Partners will continue to research the potential for utilizing Conservation Biomass sources like prairie grasses for cellulosic ethanol production.

Read the story from POET here.

DOE Biomass Conference This Week

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will keynote the Department of Energy 4th annual Biomass Conference on Tuesday.

This year’s conference, Biomass 2011, will focus on topics surrounding the use of biomass as a replacement for petroleum to supply the energy, products, and power markets. The Biomass 2011 theme will explore the new horizons of bioenergy technologies and deployment strategies, business practices, policies, and partnerships that will help sustainably transform the energy landscape.

Among those on the conference agenda is POET’s Project LIBERTY Director Jim Sturdevant who will outline the company’s vision for expanding the reach of its technology to other ethanol producers and new feedstocks. He will also show how the industry will spread to make every state an energy-producing state and what that will mean for America’s economy. Sturdevant will join Richard Wynne, Director of Environment and Aviation Policy for Boeing Company; Henry Bryndza, Director of Biochemical Science and Engineering for DuPont and Mark Maher, General Motors Executive Director for Powertrain and Vehicle Integration in a plenary session “Industry Perspectives on Bioenergy” on Wednesday morning.

Loan Guarentee Offered for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

The government is paving the way for the nation’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement today of a $105 million loan guarantee to support the development of Project LIBERTY, sponsored by POET and located in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

“This project will help decrease our dependence on oil, create jobs and aid our transition to clean, renewable energy that is produced here at home,” said Secretary Chu. “The innovations used in this project are another example of how we are seizing the opportunity to create new economic opportunities to win the clean energy future.”

“Projects like the one we are announcing today show that our investments in next generation biofuels are paying off,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Project LIBERTY will produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol per year, create over 200 jobs, and generate millions of dollars in revenue for the local economy. This project is an important step in the Obama Administration’s effort to break our nation’s unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and move toward a clean energy economy.”

According to POET officials, the plant will ultimately produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol per year, generate approximately 200 jobs during construction and 40 permanent jobs at the plant, and bring approximately $14 million in new revenue to area farmers.

Load Toad Available for Ethanol Producers

The Load Toad™ was on the loose in Indianapolis last week.

The patented Load Toad™ technology that evenly distributes distillers’ dried grains onto rail cars was unveiled for the first time at the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis, IN. It was first announced at the end of last year.

“The Load Toad is used with conventional loading to enhance the process by pushing product out into the void space of the rail cars,” said Joel Bordewyk, Associate Mechanical Engineer with POET, which developed the technology for their plants. The technology was installed in POET plants in 2010, and those plants have been able to load 3-5% more DDGS into each car.

“It goes straight to the bottom line,” Bordewyk explains. “If you can ship 19 rail cars instead of 20 and each week you are cutting more and more rail cars out of your fleet, it’s just more profit.”

Listen to an interview with Joel who explains all about the Load Toad: Load Toad Interview

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop is being made possible by the Renewable Fuels Association.

SDSU Helping to Improve Ethanol Plant Efficiency

South Dakota State University (SDSU) is helping to improve the efficiency of ethanol plants.

The SDSU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department recently invested in small scale, corn milling and ethanol processing equipment to let ethanol plant mangers test process adjustments in order to optimize efficiency.

“This small equipment allows them to test small adjustments and see how they work without the expense or risk associated with testing adjustments in a large ethanol plant,” said Van Kelley, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department head. “If adjustments aren’t made correctly at a plant processing 100,000 bushels of corn per day – it ends up being an extremely expensive mistake.”

Kelly and his department recently hosted a two-day seminar for some 20 POET plant engineers and managers who got to try out the new equipment. During the hands-on training, POET engineers and process managers used the processing equipment to test many different operating parameters – moisture content, temperature and time. A new, near-infrared spectroscopy system was used to measure the moisture, fiber, protein and fat in the samples.

“This training is designed to go beyond “here’s how you operate the equipment,” and introduce the science behind the milling,'” said said Operations Engineering Manager Beau Schmaltz. The workshop was tested by POET, but designed for the entire ethanol industry.

In this photo provided by SDSU: Shane Roby, operations engineer for POET is pouring a corn sample into the roller mill that has already undergone one pass through the rollers and aspiration separation. Casey Baumiller, left, associate process engineer and Josh Karaus, quality manager are looking on. Byron Thomas, process automation engineer, seated in the background is inspecting another test sample.

Read more from SDSU here.

Biomass Harvest Still Allows Soil Conservation

New data shows that responsible harvesting of biomass for ethanol can be part of good soil management efforts for farmland.

POET Project LIBERTYIowa State University has completed analysis on data from the third year of an ongoing study for POET’s “Project LIBERTY” near Emmetsburg, Iowa to monitor how soil health is affected when crop residue is removed. The planned 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant will use corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk to produce renewable fuel.

According to POET, the latest data shows that “removing about 1 bone-dry ton per acre (which is about 25 percent of the area’s above-ground crop residue) will not cause significant nutrient loss. In fact, corn yields continued to show no yield loss or moderate increases in fields with this rate of biomass removal.”

“Based on this study, we conclude that 1½ to 2 tons/acre of corn stover can safely be harvested” from fields similar to those used in the study, according to the research summary prepared by Dr. Douglas L. Karlen with USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Dr. Stuart Birrell with Iowa State University. Appropriate removal rates will vary depending on how productive the soil is in a specific area.

Project LIBERTY Director Jim Sturdevant said POET is committed to a conservative approach to biomass harvesting. “We’re contracting for fewer tons per acre to ensure good soil management even in years when yields are lower. Also, our farmers have moved away from traditional methods of stover removal: of chopping, raking, baling and leaving the field black,” he said.

Farmers harvesting for POET typically turn off the chopper on their combines and leave windrows behind during grain harvest. Farmers do not rake the biomass before the baler gathers it. Last fall, 85 farmers harvested 56,000 tons of biomass, and they are almost finished delivering it to Project LIBERTY’s 22-acre stackyard.

Recovering Waste Can Improve Plant Profits

According to POET, the largest producer of ethanol in the U.S., recovering waste heat can improve a plant’s bottom line. The company has been testing a new waste heat recovery system at POET Biorefining – Caro and the results have been good: significant natural gas and water savings. The plant produces 53 million gallons per year of ethanol.

The plant’s system recycles heat from the process, replacing about 10 percent of the facility’s natural gas needs. Water that is condensed in the system is re-used, which reduces overall water use by 5 percent. The technology reduces the amount of live steam running through the process and as a result, the waste heat recovery system also decreases by almost 50 percent the amount of time the plant is shut down for cleaning.

“The waste heat recovery system has been a phenomenal addition to the Caro facility,” General Manager David Gloer said. “We are using less natural gas and less water, which is great for the environment, and this new system reduces our operating cost, making us much more cost competitive. The employees have embraced the new system and have become very proficient in operating the new equipment in a very short time frame.”

POET Launches Corn Oil Product Called Voila

POET has announced it is now selling corn oil extracted from its ethanol plants for use by the biodiesel industry to produce biodiesel. Known as Voilà, the company’s patent-pending technology was debuted at its plant located in Hudson, South Dakota. POET plans to add the technology to its other plants over the course of the year. Eventually, POET believes its plant will produce 500 million pounds per year – enough corn oil to produce 60 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

The company says its corn oil is different than other corn-ethanol plants’ corn oil due to the low-energy BPX fermentation process (cold cook) they use. This process eliminates heat from the process and when the corn oil is captured at the back-end of the process, it is a higher quality product with a lower amount of free fatty acids.

“The corn kernel is an amazing thing,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin. “As we continue research into more and more co-products, our ability to displace foreign oil continues to grow. By selling Voilà to biodiesel producers, we’re providing the feedstock for even more renewable fuel production.”

Scott Weishaar, POET Vice President of Commercial Development added, “Not only is it high-quality corn oil, it is a consistent product, which is important to biodiesel producers. Our customers have been very pleased with Voilà.”

In addition to producing biodiesel, corn oil can also be used as a component in feed production. In the future, POET plans on introducing a new branded distillers product that incorporates its corn oil as an ingredient.


2 POET Plants Reach 1/2 Billion Gallon Milestone

Two POET ethanol plants have each produced 1/2 billion gallons of ethanol. POET Biorefining – Big Stone produced its 500 millionth gallon of ethanol since going online in 2002 and back in December, POET Biorefining – Chancellor reached the same milestone. These are the only two POET plants to achieve this feat to date.

“For years, POET Biorefining – Big Stone and Poet Biorefining – Chancellor, and the team members working there, have been models of efficiency and stability for the ethanol industry,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “I remember when these plants produced their first gallons of ethanol, and I am proud to see them now surpassing half a billion gallons.”

Blaine Gomer, the General Manager of POET Biorefining – Big Stone noted, “The entire team at POET Biorefining – Big Stone has worked hard to reach 500 million gallons of ethanol. We have 15 original startup team members still working at the plant. All can still remember the plant startup and first gallons produced in June of ‘02. There have been many challenges and achievements along the way. Today, we celebrate a half-a-billion gallons of clean, green, and renewable ethanol produced.”

According to researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, one gallon of ethanol reduces CO2 emissions by 6.41 pounds. Therefore, the half a billion gallons of ethanol produced over the lifespan of POET Biorefining – Big Stone have reduced carbon emissions by 1.6 million tons and the same amount has been reduced by POET Biorefining- Chancellor.

“This was achieved by a great team effort of POET Chancellor staff, the POET organization and local producers supplying good quality corn. We are proud of the fact that we are stimulating the economy for agriculture and producing clean renewable fuel for the environment and America,” add Rick Serie, general manager of POET Biorefining – Chancellor.

POET Opens 27th Ethanol Plant in Indiana

The largest ethanol producer in the world got a little bigger today, and so did Indiana’s ethanol production capacity.

poet cloverdalePOET opened its 27th ethanol plant and fourth plant in Cloverdale, Indiana with a grand opening event that included ethanol industry and government leaders, area farmers, new team members and area residents.

The opening of POET Biorefining – Cloverdale represents an important milestone for Indiana, bringing total ethanol production to over 1 billion gallons, which was a development goal set by state leaders.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said Indiana’s ethanol production has been good for the Hoosier economy. “Indiana is doing its part to ease our reliance on foreign oil,” Lt. Gov. Skillman said. “With the help of companies like POET, we will continue to create homegrown energy while giving an economic boost to rural Indiana.”

poet cloverdaleSkillman had the ribbon cutting honors at the grand opening, aided by other dignitaries, including POET CEO Jeff Broin, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, and plant General Manager Dave Brooks.

POET purchased the 90 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant, which begins production next week, from Altra Biofuels in June 2010. Since then, the company has been busy installing about $30 million in upgrades, including BPX®, POET’s patented fermentation process that uses enzymes instead of heat and POET’s Total Water Recovery system that cuts wastewater discharge. That technology and other additions make POET Biorefining — Cloverdale one of the most energy and water efficient plants in the industry.

POET’s Biorefineries Slash H20 Use

POET biorefineries have slashed water use through the utilization of the company’s Total Water Recovery technology. Across the board, the company’s plants have reduced water use by a total of 411 million gallons of water per year compared to 2009 levels. This savings means that on average, a POET ethanol plant uses 2.77 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced. The industry average is 3 gallons of water per 1 gallon of ethanol produced.

But this achievement is not near POET’s goal. With startup of systems at their biorefineries in Mitchell, S.D.; Ashton, Iowa; and Portland, Ind., the company is nearly halfway to its goal of saving 1 billion gallons of water annually by 2014, which would mean using 2.33 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced. POET’s water saving goal is one part of its company-wide sustainability initiative called “Ingreenuity.”

“I’m proud that in each of the 23 years we’ve been in business, we’ve been able to improve the environmental performance of ethanol production,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “Water is one of the most important resources on our planet. We will continue to find ways to maximize that resource and other resources in our ongoing work to be as efficient as we can be.”

Currently, 12 of POET’s 26 plants are running the system at full capacity, and another six are scheduled to come online this year. Total Water Recovery will also be running in their 27th plant, POET Biorefining – Cloverdale, which POET recently acquired and will start production later this month.

According to the company, in 2009, their plants used an average of three gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, which is an 80 percent decrease from when the company first produced ethanol in 1988. That average includes the alternative sources of water used at several POET plants. At POET Biorefining — Corning (Iowa) most of the water used for cooling comes from the Corning Waste Water Treatment Plant. One hundred percent of the water at POET Biorefining — Portland (Ind.) is recycled from a nearby quarry. POET Biorefining — Big Stone (S.D.) gets 80 percent of its water from the cooling ponds of an adjacent power plant and discharges it back to the power plant.

Jeff Lautt Named President of POET

Jeff Lautt has been named President of POET. He has been with the company since 2005 and prior to this promotion, served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Operations. Jeff Broin, the founder of POET, will remain as CEO and Chairman of the Board.

“Over his six-year career at POET, Jeff Lautt has continually taken on more and more of the daily operations of the company,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “I have full confidence that he will excel in this new role and help take POET to new heights.”

The change in leadership will allow Broin to focus his time and energy on long-term strategy for the company and well as the industry. “With more of the day-to-day operations in Jeff Lautt’s hands, I can invest more of my time in planning the future of POET and work on issues critical to the ethanol industry,” Broin said. “Many of the challenges POET faces are shared by the entire ethanol industry. As co-chairman of Growth Energy, I also look forward to working with others in the industry to face those challenges head-on.”

In his prior role, Lautt was responsible for all operational business units within POET. Of his new role, Lautt commented, “Under the leadership of Jeff Broin, POET has grown into a very successful company. Working with Jeff and the dedicated team at POET, I look forward to playing an even bigger role in future accomplishments.”