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POET announces pilot cellulosic ethanol start

Agriculture.com Staff 08/13/2008 @ 12:25pm

Using corn cobs from some 10,000 acres, the ethanol company POET, will begin making cellulosic ethanol at its 20,000 gallon pilot plant in Scotland, South Dakota before the end of the year, the company's CEO, Jeff Broin, announced Wednesday.

Speaking at the annual conference of the American Coalition for Ethanol in Omaha, Broin said that recent advances in the technology of cellulosic ethanol production make him confident that POET is on track to begin commercial production of cellulosic ethanol at its Emmetsburg, Iowa corn ethanol plant by late 2011. That plant will make 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from cobs and the fiber in the shell of corn kernels, in addition to 100 million gallons of conventional corn-based ethanol.

"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."

Broin said POET anticipates paying farmers between $30 and $60 a ton for corn cobs, which he says can be harvested in one-pass operations that don't slow corn combining.

Both the fiber from corn kernels and cobs are equally useful in making cellulosic ethanol, Broin said. Both are waste products. The cobs have little nutritional value.

"In fact, it takes nitrogen to break them down," he said. And using cobs will leave corn stover on fields to protect against erosion and maintain soil quality.

Corn cobs could provide a significant step toward the goal of producing some 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S., with all but about 15 billion gallons coming from biomass.

"America's Corn Belt has enough cobs to produce five billion gallons of ethanol per year," Broin said.

Using corn cobs from some 10,000 acres, the ethanol company POET, will begin making cellulosic ethanol at its 20,000 gallon pilot plant in Scotland, South Dakota before the end of the year, the company's CEO, Jeff Broin, announced Wednesday.

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