The Mascoma Corporation has already announced that it wants to be the first to have a cellulosic ethanol plant up and running, with three projects announced in Tennessee, New York state and Michigan. The ethanol company POET (formerly Broin) is not going to let Mascoma get there without a challenge, and announced this week an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy for the first phase of a commercial cellulosic ethanol project.

The cellulosic ethanol facility is expected to open in 2011 in Emmetsburg, Iowa. It's a follow-up to POET's February agreement with the DOE that could be worth up to $80 million, but that money can't exceed 40 percent of the facility's total cost. Here's how it'll play out:

Project Liberty, POET's cellulosic project, will convert an existing 50 million gallon per year (mgpy) dry-mill ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa into an integrated corn-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery. Once complete, the facility will produce 125 mgpy, 25 percent of which 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 almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption and decreasing water usage by 24 percent.

I know some of our readers figure that any project that requires government funding is not worth doing, but those numbers sound pretty good. It's still ethanol from corn, but at least it's moving away from that biomass, slowly but surely.

[Source: POET]

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