FEW: Poet creates biomass division, installs anaerobic digester at pilot plant

By Hope Deutscher | June 03, 2009
Report posted June 17, 2009, at 12:49 p.m. CST

Poet LLC is creating Poet Biomass, a new division to handle cob collection and supply chain management, logistics for waste wood and engineered fuels as alternative power sources and seeking out additional feedstocks for future cellulosic ethanol production.

Scott Weishaar, Poet's vice president of commercial development, will lead Poet Biomass. "Poet's cellulosic ethanol goals depend on a steady supply of a reliable feedstock: corn cobs," Weishaar said. "Poet Biomass is here to make sure farmers have everything they need in order to play their important role in fueling our nation with both grain-based and cellulosic ethanol."

Poet announced the new division at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo in Denver on June 17. Poet is currently operating a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Scotland, S.D. , which is producing approximately 20,000 gallons per year.

In addition, Poet announced an anaerobic digester has been installed and fired up at its pilot plant. The digester, which is in the research phase, uses liquid waste created in the process of converting corn cobs to ethanol. The liquid waste produces methane gas, which is currently being flared, but Poet said once the process is refined it will be installed as part of Project LIBERTY, its 25 MMgy facility in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that is expected to begin production in 2011.

"This waste, from corn cobs, has never been used as a feedstock in this way. Our researchers are working hard to optimize the process so it can be successfully installed at Project LIBERTY," said Poet CEO Jeff Broin. "The digester will refine and utilize the solid waste from the processor and produce enough energy to power not only the cellulosic ethanol plant but also supply most of the energy needs for the grain-based ethanol plants as well."

During a presentation at the FEW, Mark Stowers, Poet's vice president of research and development, said that if the biomass supply is approximately where the majority of Poet's corn-based ethanol facilities are located in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. "Our corn-to-ethanol footprint really mirrors well with the corn stover, corn cob footprint of biomass," Stowers said.

With a production capacity of 1.54 billion gallons of ethanol, Poet is the largest ethanol producer in the world, operating 26 production facilities in the U.S.