US Department of Energy commits to cellulosic ethanol plant funding

Poet LLC to build ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a conditional commitment for a $105 million loan guarantee to support development of the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. Project Liberty, sponsored by Poet LLC, will produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol per year at the plant, which will be located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. 

“This project will help decrease our dependence on oil, create jobs and aid our transition to clean, renewable energy that is produced here at home,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The innovations used in this project are another example of how we are seizing the opportunity to create new economic opportunities to win the clean energy future.”

Unlike many conventional corn ethanol plants, Project Liberty will use corncobs, leaves and husks from local farmers that do not compete with feed grains. The project’s process uses enzymatic hydrolysis to convert waste into ethanol, which will produce enough biogas to power the project’s grain-based ethanol plant. Poet estimates the project will create about 200 jobs during construction and 40 permanent jobs at the plant. Poet also estimates the project will generate nearly $14 million in new revenue to area farmers.

Project Liberty will displace over 13.5 million gallons of gasoline annually and fulfill more than 25% of the projected 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard Requirement for biomass-based cellulosic ethanol, Poet estimates. Poet also plans to replicate the process at 27 of the ethanol producer’s other corn ethanol facilities, with a projected combined annual capacity of one billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol.