It's the kind of news that stymies ethanol critics, at least for a time being.
POET, the world's largest ethanol production company, just announced that construction will be completed on its $4 million pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility by the end of 2008.
When the facility is complete, POET will be able to produce 11% more ethanol from a bushel of corn, 27% more from an acre of corn, all while reducing fossil fuel consumption and water use.
At the American Coalition for Ethanol Conference this month, Jeff Broin, CEO of POET, said he is more confident about the future of cellulosic ethanol than ever before.
"In the past few months, our scientists have been able to achieve significant ethanol percentages in fermentation and improve the yield of ethanol from biomass,” Broin said. "Additionally, in our work with farmers and agricultural equipment manufacturers, we had a very successful harvest of corn cobs last fall and anticipate further advances during an expanded harvest this fall.”
During the 2007 harvest, POET worked with major equipment manufacturers to harvest 4,000 acres of corn grain and cobs from a farmer's field in Southeastern South Dakota. Cobs from this fall's harvest and last will serve as feedstock for the cellulosic pilot plant, along with corn fiber extracted from the adjacent corn ethanol production facility.
The facility called Project LIBERTY, is a 50 million gallon per year grain-to-ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that has been transformed into an integrated corn-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery, and is jointly funded by POET and the U.S. Department of Energy. Once complete, the facility will produce 125 million gallons per year of ethanol, of which 25 million gallons will come from corn fiber and corn cobs.