The general manager of POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels says the company’s cellulosic ethanol plant, currently under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa, is on schedule to start up in early 2014.
Steve Hartig says the endeavor, dubbed Project Liberty, is about 50 percent complete.
“We have a lot of the front end of the plant done, where we bring in biomass and we grind it and deliver it,” Hartig says. “The middle of the plant, we have a lot of huge tanks, 750,000-gallon tanks, where we’ll do the conversion of the cellulose to sugars and the sugars to ethanol.”
The goal for the first year is to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, all from corn cobs, leaves, husks and stalks. “We gather up about a ton per acre,” Hartig says. “Either farmers can do it themselves or we have custom harvesters that can come in and do it for them. We’ve done a lot of work with Iowa State and other universities to really prove the sustainability of this, so that it’s something that can be done year after year and not harm the fields.”
Hartig says POET-DSM is now reaching out to other grain ethanol producers to start laying the groundwork for future commercial cellulosic ethanol sites. He says the technology is going to add a new dimension to what producers are doing today.
“It’s exciting and challenging,” Hartig says. “We’re very confident this process will work but starting up a plant this big will be a challenge. This is really a new technology and a new opportunity for farmers in the Midwest.”
Hartig says farmers in the Emmetsburg area will deliver some 120-thousand tons of biomass bales to the Project LIBERTY stackyard this fall.
Radio Iowa contributed to this story.
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