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Ethanol plant will make fuel from corn cobs

Officials with the dry-mill ethanol producer Poet announced Wednesday that they have produced cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.

According to a company report, Poet leaders announced the results of the successful test Wednesday along with their intentions to make cobs and corn fiber the feedstock for their commercial cellulosic ethanol production facility that will be jointly funded with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"For a host of reasons, Poet is focused on corn fiber and cobs as the first cellulosic feedstock for our production facilities. First, the fiber that comes from our fractionation process will provide 40% of our cellulosic feedstock from the corn kernels that we are already processing in our facility," says Poet CEO Jeff Broin. "That means that nearly half of our cellulosic feedstock comes with no additional planting, harvest, storage or transportation needs."

Poet has also produced cellulosic ethanol from fiber, the husk of the kernel, which is extracted through a proprietary fractionation process.

"The rest of the cellulosic feedstock will come from corn cobs, which will expand the amount of ethanol that can come from a corn crop with minimal additional effort and little to no environmental impact," says Broin. "There is no major market for cobs, so we will be producing cellulosic ethanol from an agricultural residue and because the cob is only 18% of the above ground stover, it will not adversely impact soil quality."

Mark Stowers, Poet vice president of research and development, says the cob has several advantages from an ethanol production perspective.

"The cob has more carbohydrate content than the rest of the corn plant, giving us the ability to create more ethanol from the cob," says Stowers. "In addition, the cob has higher bulk density than the other parts of the corn stalk, so it is easier to transport from the field to the facility."

The cellulosic project that Poet is jointly funding with the DOE will convert an existing 50 million gallon per year dry-mill ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, into a commercial cellulosic biorefinery. Once complete, the facility will produce 125 million gallons per year, 25% of which will be from cellulosic feedstock. By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain ethanol plant, POET will be able to produce 11% more ethanol from a bushel of corn, 27% more from an acre of corn, while almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption and decreasing water usage by 24%.

Officials with the dry-mill ethanol producer Poet announced Wednesday that they have produced cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.

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