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Project LIBERTY cellulosic ethanol plant comes online; corn waste as feedstock

POET-DSM’s long-anticipated Project LIBERTY, the US’ first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to use corn waste as a feedstock (earlier post), began production today. Once operating at full, commercial-scale, the biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

Developed with the support of approximately $100 million in investments and research from the US Department of Energy, the facilities use biochemical conversion technologies such as yeast and enzymes to convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels.

Project LIBERTY will produce cellulosic ethanol from corncobs, leaves, husks, and corn stalk harvested by local farmers located within a 30- to 40-mile radius of the plant, producing 2,600,000 MMBTu (or million British Thermal Units) per year from the anaerobic digester and solid fuel boiler to power the entire facility as well as POET-DSM’s co-located existing corn ethanol plant. This is enough to power about 70,000 American homes for a year.

The Department of Energy has supported this project’s engineering, construction, biomass collection, and infrastructure through approximately $100 million in cost-shared support over seven years, beginning in 2007.

Project LIBERTY is the US’ second commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery to come online. In 2013, INEOS Bio’s Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Florida, began producing 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from vegetative, yard, and municipal solid waste. 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.



According to some, this should never happen because it will not provide ALL our fuel.

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Very good news indeed. Poet has worked to make this happen for over 10 years. I am excited they have finally started up a commercial scale facility. The next 20 months or so will show whether it can yield enough to be profitable at existing prices for raw materials and end products. If it can USA will be able to add several million barrels of ethanol production per day in a few decades. It all counts in ending our dependency on imported energy.


POET, Dupont and Abengoa all have cellulose plants in the U.S. This is something the could not be done, should not be done, but guess what...it IS being done.


1.  How well does it work?
2.  How much does it cost?


Wouldn't the production of refined sugars + animal feed stocks instead of damaging ethanol for our gas guzzlers be a better choice?

Better choices (like the use of high speed e-trains instead of planes etc ) will have to be made to ensure our own survival.


Meanwhile, less crop residue to return tilth and fertility to the soil, and to stop erosion. No evidence that the benefits will be offset by reduced reliance on fertilizer, or that the natural gas used to run this plant (no mention that the residue is itself the power source) cannot be better utilized directly as gasoline/diesel feedstock.

It could not be done, should not be done, but now mustn't be done.


And before you retort that the plant IS producing its own natural gas, read the article carefully. There will supposedly be enough gas to supply 70,000 homes, but how much will actully supply those homes instead of the plant?

How can corn residue produce a higher or comparable EROEI than corn kernels, which are at about 16%?

And if we are awash in fracked gas, who needs biogas?


POET is not producing biogas, they are producing cellulose ethanol and cogenerating to use the waste heat.


"This is enough to power about 70,000 American homes for a year."

They are producing biogas for their own use, but not to heat homes. They product biogas to get lower carbon scores and better RIN ratings. The 70,000 homes is a figure of merit, they are not powering homes.

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