Second Annual Project LIBERTY Field Day Proves Successful

The second annual Project LIBERTY Field Day held on the POET Biorefining-Emmetsburg grounds Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 provided area farmers the opportunity to see new equipment efficiently harvest cobs and residue. Farmers also spent time hearing from officials from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy and the Lieutenant Governor of Iowa share their vision of producing cellulosic ethanol from corncobs.
After watching the equipment from 16 companies do their part in the corncob harvesting process, guest speakers gave farmers and visitors from across the country a glimpse of the future of commercial cellulosic ethanol production: establishing the feedstock infrastructure and market. Unlike the 2008 Field Day when rain caused the field demonstrations to be cancelled, Tuesday morning’s weather gave the crowd the opportunity to witness in-the-field demonstrations of the newest machinery in the industry.
The Future is Today
 Project LIBERTY will transform POET Biorefining from a 50 million gallon per year grain-to-ethanol plant to include an in the works 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that produces ethanol from cellulose or biomass. Upon its completion in 2011, it is estimated that the facility could eventually produce up to 125 million gallons of ethanol per year. One of the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production facilities in the world, Project LIBERTY will be a win-win situation for the farmers and the Emmetsburg area. It will require about 400,000 acres of cobs, while creating at least 30 new jobs at the plant plus another 60 to transport cobs. The $200 million facility investment will also greatly reduce fossil fuel consumption at the Emmetsburg facility.
Project LIBERTY Director Jim Sturdevant kicked off the program by saying, “Cellulosic ethanol production is about providing jobs, and it’s good for the environment and good for America. POET is a partner with the Department of Energy and the state of Iowa.” Later, Sturdevant reflected on the field day. “I couldn’t be happier with the day. I know it was a day for farmers to be in the field harvesting, but we had a good turnout from farmers, members of the media and a strong display of equipment from the 16 manufacturers.”
Both former Four-Star General Wesley Clark, the current co-chair of Growth Energy, and Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge shared their vision of the role producers will play in providing more homegrown fuel for the nation. Judge noted that this is “keeping Iowa on the forefront of energy renewal. POET is doing revolutionary work here in Emmetsburg.” She also stressed the support of the governor. “Governor Culver and I will do what we can to increase the demand for ethanol across the state of Iowa.”
Clark said, “We are going to significantly reduce our dependency on foreign energy sources, and we will strengthen America’s national security. Project Liberty can help us stop one of the greatest transfers of wealth in history by not being dependent on foreign oil.” Clark underscored the fact that currently $300-$350 billion in U. S. dollars is going out of the country every year to fund those who want to harm Americans.
Clark added, “Producing gasohol provides 500,000 jobs and $66 billion dollars in business.” In addition, corn-based ethanol emits 60 percent less carbon than petroleum-based fuel. Even more significant is the cellulose-based (from cobs) ethanol will emit up to 80-90 percent less carbon.
Clark continued, “We are taking a huge step, and we can strengthen America. We ask you (the audience) to become part of the Growth Force and to get the word to the leaders in Washington. Today is a big step for Emmetsburg, the state of Iowa and our country!”
The final speaker, Jeff Broin, the CEO of POET, said, “The process is ready. We are making cellulosic ethanol today, and we’re making it in a manner that we know is going to be profitable.
Broin added, “Ethanol is a renewable fuel, and with corn and cellulose, in the next 20 years, ethanol has the potential to replace gasoline. The opportunity is there for the Midwest to become the Middle East!”
How it all Came About
POET is jointly funding the development of a commercial cellulose ethanol facility in Emmetsburg with the U. S. Department of Energy and the state of Iowa. The Department of Energy has awarded an additional $20 million in grant funds to help POET establish a market for cobs, the feedstock for POET’s effort to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. POET’s goal is to use the funding to target ways of establishing cobs as a viable commodity, thus setting the stage for corncob harvesting across the country. POET will work with equipment manufacturers to help speed the process of getting cob-harvesting technology into fields around Emmetsburg and help provide incentives for early adopters of cob harvesting.
This year 14 farmers in the Emmetsburg area are running cob harvests with prototype equipment from one of the 16 manufacturers at Tuesday’s Project LIBERTY Field Day. It is projected that once the cellulosic plant is up and running that the project will give between 400-450 area farmers a market for cobs. POET will develop and test the feedstock infrastructure for cob pick-up, delivery and storage, which will then become a model for replication at other biomass facilities.
At the current pilot plant in Scotland, S. D. and at the future Emmetsburg Project LIBERTY facility, cobs will not only be used to produce ethanol, but also to power the cellulosic plant. Through the use of an anaerobic digester, the liquid waste will, in addition to powering the cellulosic plant, offset the natural gas usage at the attached grain ethanol plant. The digester uses the waste, which produces methane gas, to operate the facilities.
POET CEO Jeff Broin said, “This technology will cut fossil fuels out of our cellulosic ethanol production process and further improve the benefits of grain-based ethanol.”
POET Biomass will support Project LIBERTY by providing a reliable feedstock supply through multi-year cob contracts, coordinated transportation for corn cobs, help farmers with equipment selection and a percentage off the list price of cob harvesting devices, harvest methods, as well as facilitate farmer incentives and benefits that come through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) through the Department of Energy.
In addition to the money paid by Project LIBERTY for cob biomass, BCAP provides cob farmers with initial financial support in a dollar-for-dollar match for cob biomass up to $45 per ton.
Facts about POET:
• POET, which is the largest ethanol producer in the world, is a leader in biorefining through its efficient vertically integrated approach to production. The 20-year-old company produces more than 1.54 billion gallons of ethanol annually from 26 production facilities in seven states, including Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota.
• A privately held company, POET has an ownership stake in each of its 26 production facilities, along with thousands of farmers and other local investors.
• POET recently started up a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D. and is already producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year. Commercial production, named Project LIBERTY, will commercialize the process in Emmetsburg in 2011. Over the past six years, POET has spent more than $50 million on research and development.