Cellulosic bio-ethanol is poised to see large scale production for the first time next year. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is ready to start construction of a plant in early 2014 that will produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic bio-ethanol annually, later ramping up to 25 million gallons. That's a lot, but to compare, the US uses 8.7 million barrels of gasoline per day (2011 average), not counting diesel fuel, and the US makes an average 832,000 barrels of corn-based ethanol each day.

Poet-DSM's Project Liberty will make the bio-ethanol from corn cobs, leaves, husks and stalk. The plant is being built in Emmetsburg, IA, by the two companies who formed the Poet-DSM 50/50 joint venture – major ethanol producer Poet, LLC, and global science-based company Royal DSM. Some of the plant already has been built on the facility; a biomass receiving and grinding building, which can process about 770 tons of biomass per day, is nearly complete and other sections are in the works. The next steps include continued erection of tanks, concrete, plumbing, underground electrical and installation of equipment. Once it's all functioning this fall, farmers in the area will be delivering an expected 120,000 tons of biomass bales to Project Liberty. More details on the construction project are available below.

In 2011, Poet announced it would start producing up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year at its site in Iowa by 2013, so it's all taking a bit longer than expected. The next question will be: Can Poet sell 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year? We suspect it can, but perhaps not as E15.
Project LIBERTY construction on target for startup in early 2014

ST. LOUIS, MO. (June 11, 2013) – Construction of POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels' first commercial cellulosic bio-ethanol plant is on schedule to start up in early 2014, POET-DSM executives said at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop today in St. Louis, Mo.

POET-DSM's Project LIBERTY will use bales 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. The plant is under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Wade Robey, POET-DSM board member, and Steve Hartig, General Manager, Licensing for POET-DSM, outlined progress in panel discussions today at FEW.

To date, the biomass receiving and grinding building, which will process an average of 770 tons of biomass per day of operation, is nearly complete and workers are finishing concrete work inside. Fermentation and saccharification tank foundations are complete and the tanks continue to be erected. Additional completed work to date includes the facility's warehouse building, scale and the 22-acre biomass stackyard.

The next steps in construction include the continued erection of tanks, concrete, plumbing, and underground electrical as well as installation of equipment.

"Despite the wet spring, we have been able to continue to stay on schedule with construction," Robey said. "It's been exciting to see the tanks and buildings rise as the external structure of the plant takes shape. Equipment is coming in, and we're now able to start getting into the process side of things."

"With Project LIBERTY well on its way to full operation, POET-DSM is now reaching out to other grain ethanol producers to start laying the groundwork for future commercial cellulosic ethanol sites," Hartig said. "This technology is going to add a new dimension to what producers are doing today."

Farmers in the area are still signing up to deliver an expected 120,000 tons of biomass bales to the Project LIBERTY stackyard this fall. While previous harvests have primarily been used to streamline the collection and handling process at the site, biomass collected this year will be used by Project LIBERTY to produce commercial cellulosic ethanol.

The most recent construction photos are available for publication at POET-DSM's Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94159374@N03/sets/72157633976383646/.

About POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal DSM and POET, LLC. Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the company is a cooperative effort of two innovators that provides a key to unlocking the opportunity of converting corn crop residue into cellulosic bio-ethanol. Built on the strengths of both companies, the joint venture has a critical mission: to make cellulosic bio-ethanol competitive with corn bio-ethanol, the most competitive renewable liquid transportation fuel on the US market today. Drawing on the deep expertise and experience of POET and DSM in different areas of converting cellulosic biomass into bio-ethanol, POET - DSM Advanced Biofuels will have its first commercial-scale plant co-located with POET' Biorefining -- Emmetsburg in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Based on this plant, the JV plans to globally license an integrated technology package for the conversion of corn crop residue to cellulosic bio-ethanol. More information: www.poetdsm.com


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      Ziv
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wish the push for ethanol production had focused on butanol instead. It works well in an ICE and it is nearly as energy dense as gasoline so it doesn't have the ethanol shortfall in energy per gallon. I understand that butanol is more expensive than ethanol,today, but it is a product that may be worth a bit more per gallon than ethanol.
      • 16 Hours Ago
      I work at POET-DSM. Thanks for the interest. To answer a few questions here: The cellulosic material is not nearly as dense as corn, so it does pose storage and handling challenges. We've had 5 years of large-scale harvests in the area so farmers can learn how to harvest it properly and we can learn how to unload it, stack it, move it around, etc. It's been a learning experience, and things are looking good now. We have a 22-acre stackyard that holds enough for 3-4 weeks of feedstock. The farmers store the rest of the bales in their fields and deliver according to a time frame set in their contracts. POET-DSM contracts with farmers for 20-25% of the above-ground biomass with the rest left on the fields for nutrients/erosion control. We've had Iowa State and USDA on site for 5 or 6 years now doing year-to-year soil nutrient research to ensure that's an amount that is sustainable, and we share those results with the public and farmers. We actually contract for an amount well below what the research shows is workable. As for the energy use, the waste streams are used to produce steam and biogas. There's enough energy produced to operate the cellulosic ethanol plant and export a large amount to the adjacent grain ethanol plant, offsetting its natural gas use. That contributes to the overall greenhouse gas reduction value for cellulosic ethanol.
        Marcopolo
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @ Matt Merritt Thank you for your interesting contribution, and for declaring your vested interest in Poet-DSM. Both POET and Royal DSM are highly well intentioned and ethical corporations. Most alternate fuels, can be produced on a small scale, and attract a strong following of supporters. That's great, as long as the government doesn't become involved in maintaining inefficient industries, for political or ideological reasons. I suppose it's only natural that supporters of US Ethanol production, tend to cite only the positive aspects of the industry, and ignore the downsides. For years, the general public has been told by the RFA and governments, that the hundreds of billions of dollars given to the US corn-based ethanol industry was justified on 'environmental' l grounds. That proved to be false. In fact, not only is the US ethanol industry totally uneconomic, but very environmentally harmful. (roughly 2.5 times worse that gasoline !). The problem with cellulostic feedstock is that not only is the amount produced, unreliable, uneconomic and very limited, but the environmental benefits are negative. All bio-fuels, by their nature, are prisoners to the variabilities of agriculture. This makes for an unreliable fuel supply, unsuitable for advanced industrial societies. On a small scale, like bio-diesel from waste cooking oil, the logistics work out just fine. I installed a bio-mass generator on my family estate in the UK. The agricultural waste supplies a surprising amount of electricity generation, but couldn't be economically up-scaled. If the studies conducted by US government agencies such as the DOE ,EIA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are accepted as reasonably accurate, the following environmental information emerges; Mean Damages in $/VMT (vehicle mile travelled) Gasoline :- $0.0134 E10 dry corn (10% ethanol/gasoline blend) $0.0135 E10 corn stover (cellulose) $0.0130 Mean Damages in $/gge (gallon of gasoline equivalent) Gasoline :- $0.2920 E10 dry corn (10% ethanol/gasoline blend) $0.2918 E10 corn stover (cellulose) $0.2810 When you factor in the global environmental damage created by US ethanol, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, US ethanol exceeds gasoline by 18-26% ! (cellulosic would be less). The RFA is not the most reliable of organisations when it comes to publishing information. Many RFA inspired articles often quote "cellulostic" statistic's, without making it clear that the figures include non-corn stover based feed-stocks. (most of which don't exist!) It's for these reasons, among many others, that I say, the US government should end it's mandate, and financial support of the ethanol industry.
        EZEE
        • 16 Hours Ago
        Yay!
          EZEE
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          My response was the most concise...
        raktmn
        • 16 Hours Ago
        Matt, Thank you very much for dropping in and adding this information, it is very much appreciated!
      Letstakeawalk
      • 16 Hours Ago
      I understand the feedstock is different, but it is a similar process. This study was done using feedstocks with a high energy content - undoubtedly the energy content of waste material would be worse.
      Jim
      • 1 Year Ago
      Damn these ethanol producers, using up valuable feed stock! Once this plant is up and running, we should all expect soaring prices and supply shortages in the crucial corn cob pipe markets.
        kEiThZ
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Jim
        Cellulosic ethanol. It should be using waste.
        Jesse Gurr
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Jim
        "...will use bales of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic bio-ethanol annually..." Corn cobs are what is left over when the corn is stripped from them. So they are using waste for this. Unless you eat the cob and leaves. Or maybe you are being sarcastic?
        raktmn
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Jim
        Jim, let me add on your behalf, the /sarc tag. Because I smell sarcasm... =)
          Jim
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @raktmn
          Ha. Yeah, I was joking.
      • 16 Hours Ago
      Very little natural gas, the left over material after fermentation will be dried down and put thru a solid fuel boiler to create the steam. Just FYI.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 16 Hours Ago
      HES estimates are interpreted in a similar manner. These results suggest that cellulosic ethanol produced from SG and HES remain at a disadvantage compared to conventional fuels due to higher cost per gallon which in early 2013 were $2.87 per gallon not including any taxes (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2013). These results(i.e., adjusted per gallon cost of ethanol at $3.87 (SG) and $5.49 (HES)) suggest that cost of production of cellulosic biofuels is not at a level to make them competitive with gasoline, as indicated by Bracmort et al. (2010) as one of the potential challenges of renewable fuels. Moreover, the cost per gallon of ethanol estimated in this study is higher than the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (2007) estimate of $2.40 per gallon to produce and convert cellulosic feedstock to ethanol, renewing concerns of critics regarding the potential of cellulosic biofuels as a viable alternative to U.S energy demand. All of these factors confirm that estimation of NER provides valuable information to evaluate the potential of biofuels as alternative source of energy. Although energy return estimation is only one of the assessment metrics, broader impact-based metrics are required to provide information to the decision makersregarding other critical issues. While the government continues to support ethanol development to enhance energy security, attention must be given to develop a strategic plan to promote biofuels, accounting for the potential concerns at local, regional, and national levels. Limitations Some of the limitations associated with the current analysis of estimation of energy return of biomassbased ethanol include: • The current analysis omits any energy required to produce machinery, farm equipment, conversion facilities, and other related capital factors, as the energy estimates associated with these inputs is dated. Availability of contemporary energy estimatesfor these inputs would allow for development of a more comprehensive energy estimate for cellulosic biofuels. • Limited to no information was available regarding the co-products associated with biomass crops. As a result, no energy or value was assigned to the co-productsin the NER estimation of biomass ethanol, thereby underestimating the benefits of biomass ethanol. • Geographical variation can have large impacts on energy estimates of the biofuel system. The current estimate of NER of biomass ethanol that utilizes biomass crop production data from Middle Gulf Coast, Edna-Ganado, Texas area is notreadily transferable to a more general region. ] • Not considered is the issue of form, where the demand for a mobile fuel may justify added costs. The value of having mobile fuels may override many of the impacts described in this study. However, it is important to consider the potential of an alternative fuel not only from an economic perspective but also from an energy perspective. Often times, however, economic approaches are distorted by government intervention through subsidies, tariffs, and other institutional forces.
      raktmn
      • 16 Hours Ago
      Interesting study, but this plant isn't using switch grass (SG) or High Energy Sorghum (HES) that this study is about.
      JP
      • 1 Year Ago
      The question is of course by removing these products from the fields, where they presumably decay and return nutrients back into the soil, what's the energy cost of artificially recreating those nutrients and putting them back into the fields for future crops?
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      So have they now got an efficient cost-effective cellulosic ethanol process? If so, that is great news.
      Marcopolo
      • 16 Hours Ago
      Every so often the RFA and Ethanol industry announces a 'new' technology that will finally make US Ethanol an economically and environmentally successful alternate fuel. This news is always accompanied by a fanfare of supporters, with accolades for the new technology, without mentioning the complicated downsides. In this way, the US taxpayer, and consumer continues to subsidise a totally inefficient, environmentally harmful industry, which can never become independent of government support. Western Biomass Energy LLC, another celebrated cellulose bio-fuel producer, who only last year became the first cellulosic ethanol producer to qualify under the EPA program for RFS2 cellulosic ethanol tax credits, has just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That's not to say that POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is in the same position, or that POET-DSM is not a JVC with two highly reputable, well-intentioned partners. However, the article fails to mention that the Emmetsburg plant was constructed with federal and state assistance, totalling more than $ 100 million. That level of government assistance maybe appropriate for a struggling, US start-up company developing a brand new technology and unable to obtain conventional funding in new industry, but the ethanol industry is over 40 years old, and the Dutch owned (Royal) DSM part of the JVC is a very profitable, massive corporation with over $16 billion in assets ! 'Cellulosic' ethanol, produced from "corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk ", is little more than an expensive public relations exercise, designed maintain government and public support for a fundamentally flawed industry. Corn based ethanol, has proved to be a monumental mistake. Instead of helping the environment, it has produced a great deal of devastating harm. Attempting to produce a tiny amount of ethanol, at great cost to taxpayers and consumers, by pretending that cellulostic ethanol is slightly less environmentally harmful, in order continue to justifying an obsolete industry, is just further folly. Remove the US government mandate, and US government support, and this environmentally harmful, uneconomic, industry would disappear !
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Still would like to see your study you reference, but a 10 second google search of DOE and ethanol turned up this from 5 months ago: "New Argonne lifecycle analysis of bioethanol pathways finds corn ethanol can reduce GHG emissions relative to gasoline by 19-48%; long-term, cellulosic offers the most benefits" http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/01/wang-20130122.html So I guess I agree that DOE is credible. There's plenty of others out there. DOE, EPA and others have said multiple times that ethanol is an environmental benefit for the world with research such as the above cited to back it.
          Marco Polo
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @ Matt Merritt Matt, your post is exactly what I mean by selective information. Your link is not to the DOE, but a study compiled by Argonne Laboratories, Dr Wang. Argonne was founded by the DOE, but today is managed by the U of Chicago and Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (It's still a highly respected institution) Individual studies are funded by a wide range of 'sponsors', including various lobby groups. Dr Wang's study has been heavily criticised in peer reviewed papers, for selective usage of material, and funding from by sources close to RFA. This criticism included the study's reliance on only including factors favourable to Ethanol production, and omitting relevant negative factors. The study assumed a perfect supply chain for cellulose ethanol, and included feed-stock's that simply don't exist. Dr Wang's study also failed to include adequate allowance for direct emissions from land use change even though output of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, can vary by a factor of two from one end of a field to another, and by a factor of 100 from one farm to another. Indirect emissions, were also under-represented. Nowhere in his study does he allow for environmental impacts such as the Gulf of Mexico's "extinction-by-ethanol" ! It takes 195 pounds of fertilizer to grow an acre of corn, much of that ends up in the Gulf, creating a dead-zone about the size of New Mexico. (Ethanol consumes 40 % of U.S. corn crops) Dr Wang's comparison of Petroleum products, was also taken at the most extreme, to produce a favourable result. The GREET model developed by Dr Wang contained so many distortions and omissions, that it loses all creditability. It takes laboratory data, acquired under controlled conditions, and attempts to use that information to draw conclusions, without regard to the thousands of agricultural variables that occur in the real world. Now, if you had read more than just one, of the many thousands of articles published, you would have realised that Dr Wang's study is flawed by his reliance in the extremely rubbery RFA data. Here are some more varied links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BioethanolsCountryOfOrigin.jpg http://www.nucleartownhall.com/blog/william-tucker-bad-week-for-biofuels/ http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/05/16/round-and-round-the-ethanol-goes/ http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/01/how-us-eu-biofuel-policy-beggars-global-south http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/indirect-biofuels-emissions-scie-news-518023 http://www.energytrendsinsider.com/2013/06/06/why-the-timing-is-ripe-for-ethanol-policy-reformhttp://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/54281
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marcopolo
        I'm not sure what you're reading that says this is environmentally harmful, but the vast majority of research indicates that, done right, this is very sustainable. I'm sure you can find a study or two on the periphery that indicate otherwise, but that's hardly the consensus. Yes, the U.S. govt offered grants to incentivize companies to get this technology to scale more quickly than it otherwise would have. Once the tech is run at commercial scale, capital costs will start to decline, as it does with all new technology. The next plant and one after that will have lower capital costs. I understand that you disagree with the purpose of those grants, so I suppose that's just a difference of opinion. I don't think you understand the technology or advancements that make this possible, and that's not your fault because much of it is proprietary. I will echo what you note, that POET and DSM are strong companies, and others such as Dupont and Abengoa are involved in this space now. While some startups did run into trouble, there are some pretty major and established players in the game today, companies that understand the importance of the bottom line. And it pencils out.
          Marcopolo
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @ Matt Merritt I don't think that studies conducted by the DOE ,EIA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), IEA , UN etc, can be dismissed as '' peripheral" ! The vast majority of independent research does not support the environmental benefits of Ethanol. I have no dispute with either POET or DSM, who are only responding to ill-conceived government policies. If the US Government mandate was removed and no further grants,subsidies or other taxpayer funded assistance was provided, the entire ethanol industry (including corn stover) would collapse. Ethanol, in any form, is not a ''Sustainable" industry ! The US government created an artificial market for a uneconomicfuel, and funded it's existence at the expense of the US taxpayer, and consumers. If the US government ended the mandate tomorrow, along with government assistance, POET, DSM's "bottom-line" would disappear, along with the rest of the US ethanol industry. The is no sense in continuing to maintain an inefficient, uneconomic, environmentally harmful industry, simply to replace one environmentally harmful fuel, with an even more harmful fuel, that costs more, and is less efficient. But, let the US consumer decide ! End the mandate, and let the 40 year old Ethanol industry survive on it's own feet.
      chechnya
      • 16 Hours Ago
      This is a step in the right direction. Ethanol is a great fuel.
      • 16 Hours Ago
      "Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is ready to start construction of a plant in early 2014..." Look at the photo; seems to me like construction is already well underway!
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