Update on POET cellulosic ethanol plant

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Jan. 17, POET held a meeting in Dickens trying to bring local farmers in to help supply a cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg. Representatives from the company held a similar meeting on Jan. 29 here in Spencer.

"We had some people interested and a good response," said POET Biomass Coordinator Randall Pelzer. "Our main goal is to get our message out to everyone we can."

According to Pelzer, some local farmers have signed on to deliver bales to the Emmetsburg plant.

"We're actively finding contracts and wrapping up 2013 tonnage," said POET Commodity/Biomass Manager BJ Schany. "People are kicking the tires right now. (Spencer) was one of the best groups yet."

POET is a a company that "strives to produce ethanol and other biorefined products." The company is currently building a cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg that is projected to start making fuel late this year.

"They are building everyday," Pelzer said. "The grinding building was being built this week. Stuff is going vertical, and if you are a kid you'd think it reaches to the moon."

The Emmetsburg plant is one of seven that POET owns in the state of Iowa.

There is another cellulosic ethanol plant being built in Nevada, Iowa, owned by DuPont, but Schany doesn't think it will be a problem.

"With the distance between the plants, there's not much competition. If anything, it will speed the process of bale collection," he said. "The more people that are involved, the better it is for everybody. I think it will be a friendly competition."

The increase in cellulosic ethanol plants and biomass-based renewable energy won't surpass corn-ethanol fuel, according to Schany.

"I don't think it will replace corn ethanol fuel," he said. "Corn ethanol comes first and then cellulosic next. It fills the gap between oil and fossil fuels."

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 - the 2008 farm bill - gives $1 billion in incentives and support for the production of "advanced (mainly cellulosic) biofuels. For example, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program "supports the production of dedicated crop and forest cellulosic feedstocks and provides incentives for harvest and post-production storage and transport."

The increase in cellulosic ethanol is meant to supplement the corn acres out there, according to Schany.

"We may see an increase in corn on corn acres. I think that's more of long-term down the road," Schany said.

Last year's drought isn't much of a worry to Schany regarding corn crops.

"I think we will get another average crop," he said. "We have big corn acre projections this year."

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