Nation’s First Commercial-Scale Plant, Dubbed ‘Project Liberty’
The U.S. Department of Energy is celebrating today’s start-up of “Project Liberty,” a $275 million, 25-million-gallons-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The Poet-DSM facility is the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to use non-food corn waste as a feedstock, DoE says. UCS comments added September 4
DoE has invested some $100 million in the plant.
“Home-grown biofuels have the potential to further increase our energy security, stimulate rural economic development, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in an agency release.
The Technology Is to Be Taken Global
Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels is a partnership of South Dakota-based Poet, which has 27 grain-based ethanol plants, and the Dutch chemical company Royal DSM.
“This is an historical day in the development of plant-residue-based cellulosic ethanol as a viable, commercially attractive alternative to gasoline as we are moving from the fossil age to the (bio-)renewable age,” Royal DSM chairman and CEO Feike Sijbesma said in a company release.
“For DSM this is a strategic investment, applying our proprietary technology to convert agricultural residue on a commercial scale, allowing it to be replicated at other facilities globally as we are ramping up our cellulosic ethanol licensing business.”
Corncobs, Leaves, Husks, and Corn Stalk
Poet-DSM will produce cellulosic ethanol from corncobs, leaves, husks, and corn stalk harvested by farmers located within a 30- to 40-mile radius of the plant. “Project Liberty will serve as a test bed for producing cellulosic ethanol with biochemical conversion technologies, helping to inform the design and construction of other advanced biofuels projects,” DoE says.
The Union of Concerned Scientists was quick to praise the Emmetsburg plant opening.
No Food, Notes UCS
“The Poet-DSM facility is an important milestone on the road to clean transportation,” UCS senior scientist, clean vehicles, Jeremy Martin said in a release. “With efficient vehicles and clean fuels like cellulosic biofuel we can cut our projected oil use in half in 20 years.
“Moving from pilot scale to commercial scale means cleaner fuels are moving into the fast lane,” Martin said. “We still have a ways to go until cellulosic biofuel is as abundant as corn ethanol, but with commercial production underway, we are making progress much faster. The milestones – more than a million gallons in 2014 and more than 10 million in 2015 – should start to fly by more quickly.
“The amazing thing about cellulosic technology is that it allows biofuel production to expand without using any additional food crops,” said the UCS man. “According to our analysis, Iowa has potential to expand biofuel production by a billion gallons – more than 25% – without using an additional kernel of corn.”
Technology to Be Applied to Older Poet Plants
UCS notes that the Poet-DSM plant is the first of three cellulosic ethanol facilities slated to come on line this year, the others being DuPont’s in Iowa and Abengoa’s in Kansas.
Poet-DSM says it “intends to globally license an integrated technology package that converts corn crop residue to cellulosic bio-ethanol to third parties, as well as the other 26 existing corn ethanol plants in Poet’s network.”
The technology package includes “a proprietary cocktail of enzymes and yeast,” Poet-DSM said Wednesday.
Kevin Potas is business development manager for Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels.
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Source: U.S. DoE and Poet-DSM with Fleets & Fuels follow-up