SIOUX FALLS, S.D. --- Major ethanol producer POET's task of securing 700 tons of cellulosic biomass per day of operation got a big boost this month when the U.S. Department of Energy approved a $6.85 million funding increase to an existing grant.
This is the first of two funding increases from DOE to help establish a market for corn cobs. The second, expected next year, is estimated to provide an additional $13.15 million. Cobs are the feedstock for POET's effort to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. The plant, Project Liberty, will be built in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
The grant increases will play a key role in establishing corn cobs as a viable commodity and setting the stage for corn cob harvesting across the United States, POET said.
The additional funds will be used to develop the feedstock infrastructure for cellulosic ethanol production. POET will work with equipment manufacturers to help speed the process of getting cob-harvesting technology into fields around Emmetsburg and will provide incentives for early adopters of cob harvesting.
"DOE has shown an incredible commitment to speeding the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol," POET CEO Jeff Broin said. "With this grant, we'll be able to help farmers take advantage of this new revenue stream while helping our nation realize all the benefits of second-generation ethanol."
Project Liberty is a 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that will be attached to the current grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg. Operations are scheduled to begin in late 2011. POET has operated a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D., since November 2008.
The Department of Energy has been a major supporter of Project Liberty. The two grant increases will bring the total financial commitment from DOE to $100 million. Project Liberty, which includes building the commercial plant, helping farmers and equipment manufacturers develop a feedstock infrastructure and other costs, will total about $250 million.
Fourteen farmers in the Emmetsburg area will run cob harvests this year with prototype equipment from a variety of manufacturers. POET will develop and test the feedstock infrastructure for cob pickup, delivery and storage, which can be a model for replication at other biomass facilities.