Victory For Project Liberty

What was once only a dream has become a reality with the grand opening ceremony of Project Liberty.
By Holly Jessen | September 19, 2014

It’s no coincidence that Project Liberty’s name includes a word that means freedom, said Feike Sijbesma, Royal DSM’s CEO and board chairman, during the Sept. 3 event. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels LLC’s Emmetsburg, Iowa, cellulosic ethanol plant is an opportunity for freedom from addiction to fossil fuels, freedom from the cycle of pollution and freedom to create jobs in the Midwest and around the world. “We are … witnessing the start of the shift of the fossil age we have lived in, and we still live in, to the biorenwable age we are entering today,” he said. “The fossil age will inevitably come to an end one day.”

About 3,000 people attended the celebration, including speakers USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, where DSM is headquartered, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Michael Knotek, U.S. DOE Deputy Undersecretary of science and technology, and other officials. The 20 MMgy cellulosic ethanol plant, which will eventually expand to 25 MMgy, first produced biofuel in August.
Jeff Broin, Poet’s founder and executive chairman, asked farmers in attendance to stand up,

recognizing that the company could not do its job without them. “What we see around us today is a symbol of what can be accomplished through the miracle of nature, the work of the farmer and the power of human ingenuity.” 

The $250 million project developed over 10 years of research and development, seven years of feedstock collection and three years of building and refining a partnership with Netherlands-based Royal DSM, said Poet’s CEO Jeff Lautt. Construction of the plant took a thousand truckloads of concrete, millions of pounds of steel and the work, sweat and dedication of hundreds of construction workers to complete.

Branstad noted that the state of Iowa estimates a $24.4 billion impact on the state in the next 20 years, adding that with enough innovation and hard work a dream like this can become reality. “And we’re not done dreaming, not by a long shot,” he said.

Poet founder and chairman Jeff Broin spoke about how his father began experimenting with ethanol production on a kitchen stove at the family farm. “Neighbors thought we were crazy when we bought a closed plant in Scotland, South Dakota,” he said. “And they thought we were every crazier when we went around talking to farmers about the possibilities. We were told we’d never get enough biomass, that ethanol would never been cost competitive, and that it was a fantasy fuel. Well, we became used to being called crazy, and here we are today with something I never could have dreamed of. Project Liberty has been a fantasy, but today, it is real. … Hundreds of years from now, it is my hope that people will say this all started because of some crazy people in a small town in Iowa had a dream.”

Authors: Holly Jessen
Managing Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine
[email protected]

Contributor: Anna Simet
Managing Editor, Biomass Magazine