Poet Plant Produces First Cellulosic Ethanol

Following a successful start-up in the fourth quarter of 2008, the Poet Research Center in Scotland, South Dakota is now producing cellulosic ethanol on a pilot scale. The Scotland plant is producing ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons-per-year (GPY) using corn cobs as feedstock.

The US $8 million endeavor is a precursor to the company’s US $200 million Project Liberty, a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant that will begin production in 2011.

“The start-up of the pilot scale facility has been extremely smooth,” said Jeff Broin, Poet’s CEO. “After producing 1,000 gallons, we’ve already been able to validate all of what we learned in the lab and believe the process will be ready for commercialization when we start construction on Project Liberty next year.”

The pilot plant is also the site of a 9 million-GPY starch ethanol production facility and a starch pilot facility. Poet is pursuing an integrated starch- and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery model that could see cellulosic production capacity added to their 26 plants that currently produce 1.5 billion-GPY of ethanol from corn.

The pilot project is the result of an investment in research by Poet over the last eight years toward commercializing cellulosic ethanol. In 2008 alone, Poet spent US $20 million on research, doubling its research staff and tripling the size of its lab in Sioux Falls.

To see a documentary that Poet produced about its pilot cellulosic ethanol plant, play the video below.