Poet-DSM begins building Project Liberty

By Kris Bevill | March 13, 2012

Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC held a formal groundbreaking ceremony on March 13 at the site of the 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility known as Project Liberty, marking the beginning of full-scale construction of the plant. Preliminary site work for the facility had previously been conducted and a 22-acre stackyard for feedstock has also already been completed at the site by Poet, which was the sole project developer prior to forming a joint venture with DSM earlier this year. Construction of the production facility is expected to be complete in late 2013 at which time it is anticipated to produce ethanol from corn cobs and stover at an initial cost of about $3 per gallon. The initial capital expenditure for the project is estimated to be about $250 million.

Leaders from Poet-DSM were joined by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in celebrating the groundbreaking. “This groundbreaking today is a great example of a project that leverages Iowa’s unique strength in agriculture and renewable fuels production to create another new product for the renewable energy marketplace,” Branstad said, adding that the facility will create high-paying jobs for workers in the area.

Project Liberty will share infrastructure with Poet’s adjacent 55 MMgy corn ethanol plant and in exchange will provide that facility with excess energy produced during the cellulosic ethanol production process. “Poet has been a leader in growing the corn ethanol industry to approximately 10 percent of America’s automobile fuel supply,” Poet President Jeff Lautt said in a statement. “Right here in Emmetsburg, we want to build on that foundation and develop another renewable, domestic alternative to foreign oil, something we believe America needs.”

Royal DSM is a global life sciences and materials company which specializes in developing yeast and enzyme technology. The company will continue to develop enzymes for Poet’s cellulosic ethanol production process as part of its role in the 50-50 joint venture. Additionally, while construction of the facility is under way, Poet-DSM will continue to establish the logistics related to acquiring, storing and processing the 770 dry tons per day of feedstock necessary for full-scale operations. Following the start-up of Project Liberty, Poet-DSM plans to roll out the cellulosic technology package at all of Poet’s corn ethanol plants and will also market the technology to other ethanol producers. Stephen Tanda, member of the managing board of Royal DSM, said once the technology is proven at Project Liberty, the risk of investing in the company’s cellulosic technology will be reduced, encouraging capital currently waiting on the sidelines to enter the cellulosic industry. “It’s up to us now to convince everyone that this technology works and meet the milestones that we are very confident it will meet,” he said.