POET (formerly Broin), the largest dry-mill ethanol producer, has produced cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs. The company announced the results of the successful test along with their intentions to make cobs and corn fiber the feedstock for a commercial cellulosic ethanol production facility that will be jointly funded with the US Department of Energy (DOE).
POET has also produced cellulosic ethanol from fiber, the husk of the kernel, which is extracted through its proprietary BFRAC fractionation process.
The cellulosic project that POET is jointly funding with the DOE will convert an existing 50 million gallon per year (mgpy) dry-mill ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa into a commercial cellulosic biorefinery.
The project is named LIBERTY: Launch of an Integrated Bio-refinery with Eco-sustainable and Renewable Technologies in Y2009. Once complete, the facility will produce 125 mgpy of ethanol, 25% of which will be from cellulosic feedstock.
Broin has licensed a unique integrated lignocellulose conversion technology package developed by DuPont that converts high volumes of both the cellulose and hemicellulose (or simple and complex sugars) in corn plants into ethanol. Broin is also collaborating with Novozymes on providing state-of-the-art enzyme technology in the cellulosic biomass field.
By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain ethanol plant, POET will be able to produce 11% more ethanol from a bushel of corn and 27% more from an acre of corn, while almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption and decreasing water usage by 24%. Last week, POET announced that Jim Sturdevant, a 22-year veteran of the US Geological Survey, will serve as director of the project.
For a host of reasons, POET is focused on corn fiber and cobs as the first cellulosic feedstock for our production facilities. First, the fiber that comes from our fractionation process will provide 40 percent of our cellulosic feedstock from the corn kernels that we are already processing in our facility. That means that nearly half of our cellulosic feedstock comes with no additional planting, harvest, storage or transportation needs.
The rest of the cellulosic feedstock will come from corn cobs which will expand the amount of ethanol that can come from a corn crop with minimal additional effort and little to no environmental impact. There is no major market for cobs, so we will be producing cellulosic ethanol from an agricultural residue and because the cob is only 18 percent of the above ground stover, it will not adversely impact soil quality.—Jeff Broin, CEO of POET
Dr. Mark Stowers, VP of Research & Development for POET said the cob has several advantages from an ethanol production perspective, including more carbohydrate content than the rest of the corn plant and higher bulk density than the other parts of the corn stalk, making it easier to transport from the field to the facility.