Major ethanol producer to build cellulosic refinery in Iowa: Scientific American
Greenwire - February 27, 2009
Major ethanol producer to build cellulosic refinery in Iowa
Millions in government grants go to start the state's first commercial
refinery for ethanol made from cobs and grasses
By Michael Burnham
The nation's largest grain ethanol producer, Poet LLC, will use state
and federal grants to start work on the company's first commercial
cellulosic refinery in Iowa.
The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based company is preparing to convert a
50-million-gallon-a-year grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, into
an integrated refinery that would produce fuels from both corn kernels
"Project Liberty" would begin production in 2011 with a
125-million-gallon-a-year nameplate capacity, followed by several more
dual-fuel plants throughout the state, company officials claim.
The Emmetsburg makeover will cost more than $200 million, but Poet has
secured grants of up to $80 million from the U.S. Department of Energy
and $14.75 million from Iowa. The 18-member Iowa Power Fund Board, which
includes state agency directors and gubernatorial appointees, approved
the funds yesterday.
Poet would pay back a portion of the state grant, depending on if and
where the company replicates the cellulosic technology, said Brian
Crowe, senior program planner with the Iowa Office of Energy
Independence. For example, if Poet built a second commercial plant in
Iowa, the company would pay the state $100,000; if Poet replicated the
technology in another state, the company would pay Iowa $500,000.
If Poet licensed its technology to another company, and it built a
refinery outside of Iowa, Poet would pay the Hawkeye State as much as
$800,000, according to the contract.
"Obviously, our preference is to have the plant replicated in Iowa,"
Poet plans to raise $2 billion of debt, equity and public financing and
invest the money in six more dual-fuel refineries in Iowa, said Nathan
Schock, a company spokesman. The makeovers would be modeled after a
20,000-gallon-a-year integrated refinery Poet opened in Scotland, S.D.,
late last year.
"We believe the quickest route to commercial cellulosic ethanol
production in this country is this integrated model," added Schock, who
said construction of the Emmetsburg plant could begin as soon late 2009.
Cellulosic ethanol is not produced and sold commercially in the United
States, but Poet officials say they have been able to validate lab tests
at the South Dakota pilot refinery. The privately held company is also
working with the Danish biotechnology company Novozymes to develop
enzymes that cost-effectively break down tough, cellulosic plant fiber
found in corncobs.
Poet, which operates 26 grain corn ethanol refineries throughout the
Midwest, has the capacity to produce about 1.5 billion gallons of the
biofuel annually. But company CEO Jeff Broin contends that the United
States could produce as much as 85 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol
annually from corncobs, switchgrass, yard waste and other woody biomass.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy
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