by RP Siegel
There was big news in Emmetsburg, Iowa this month—the opening of a major cellulosic ethanol plant. The plant, which is the first commercial-scale cellulosic facility in the US, is a joint venture between Poet and Royal DSM. Code-named Project Liberty, the plant was christened in a ceremony featuring His Majesty Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, along with a host of others including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Under Secretary Michael Knotek of the Department of Energy, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.
The plant will initially process 570 million pounds of biomass, primarily crop residue in the form of corn stover, each year, converting it to 20 million gallons of ethanol. At full capacity those numbers will increase to 770 and 25 million, respectively.
Traditional corn ethanol production uses the age-old process of distilling starches into alcohol, the same way that distilled spirits are made. The ability to convert the leaves and stalks and other waste material containing lignocellulose was something that had never been done before. The science was difficult and it has taken longer than expected, leading the EPA to revise the numbers in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a mandate for the production of bio-fuels to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Image Credit: Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. He has been published in business and technical journals and has written three books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an eco-thriller that is being adapted for the big screen. RP is a professional engineer – and a prolific inventor, with 50 patents, numerous awards, and several commercial products. He is president of Rain Mountain LLC and is an active environmental advocate in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. In addition to Justmeans, he writes for Triple Pundit, ThomasNet News, and Energy Viewpoints, occasionally contributing to Mechanical Engineering, Strategy + Business, and Huffington Post. You can follow RP on Twitter, @RPSiegel.
KEYWORDS: Energy, ethanol, Cellulosic ethanol, lignocellulose, renewable fuel standard, bio-ethanol, Biofuel, POET, Royal DSM, Willem-Alexander, Tom Vilsack, Michael Knotek, Terry Branstad, GranBio, high octane, compression ratio, Formula 1