Give him seven to nine years, and Poet CEO Jeff Broin says you will see the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol competitive with that of grain-based ethanol. Advances in enzyme technology are moving the process of making fuel from cellulose materials forward at warp speed.
“It’s not chemistry, it’s microbiology,” Broin said in a media teleconference today announcing the Poet Research Center in Scotland, S.D. is now producing cellulosic ethanol on a pilot scale. “And microbiology, from what I have seen in my short lifetime, can be almost infinitely improved.”
The Scotland pilot plant is already producing ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year using corn cobs as feedstock. Research at the pilot facility is all in preparation for the $200 million Project Liberty, a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant that will begin production in 2011.
A top goal for the pilot plant is to lower the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol. Today, cellulosic ethanol costs a dollar a gallon more than grain-based ethanol, Broin says. That may sound like a lot, but a year and half a go it was several dollars higher.
“By the time Project Liberty comes online, it is our intention to be 50 cents a gallon above grain-based ethanol,” Broin says. “Within 5-7 years we believe we can be competitive with grain based ethanol through advancements in technology.”
Learn more and even watch a documentary of the pilot plant at www.poet.com