First commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the united states open for business

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, a joint venture of Royal DSM and POET, LLC, has finally opened its first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

The plant, named “Project Liberty,” was formally opened in the presence of His Majesty Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Under Secretary Michael Knotek of the Department of Energy, Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa.

The plant converts baled corn cobs, leaves, husk and stalk into renewable fuel and at full capacity, it will convert 770 tons of biomass per day to produce ethanol at a rate of 20 million gallons per year, later ramping up to 25 million gallons per year.

Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board of Royal DSM said: “This is an historical day in the development of plant-residue-based cellulosic ethanol as a viable, commercially attractive alternative to gasoline as we are moving from the fossil age to the (bio-)renewable age. For DSM this is a strategic investment, applying our proprietary technology to convert agricultural residue on a commercial scale, allowing it to be replicated at other facilities globally as we are ramping up our cellulosic ethanol licensing business.”

“Some have called cellulosic ethanol a ‘fantasy fuel,’ but today it becomes a reality,” said Jeff Broin, POET founder and Executive Chairman. “With access now to new sources for energy, Project Liberty can be the first step in transforming our economy, our environment and our national security.”

The Departments of Energy and Agriculture and the State of Iowa were key partners in the project: the DOE awarded US$100 million in grants to support the costs of engineering and construction and the State of Iowa contributed US$20 million in grants for capital costs and feedstock logistics. Also, the USDA invested US$2.6 million to support the delivery of more than 58,000 dry tons of corn crop residue, helping establish the feedstock logistics network.

Assuming continued support from the RFS program and depending on the adoption rate of cellulosic ethanol both in and outside the United States, the company claims to have the potential to achieve net sales of about $250 million from bio-ethanol and license income by 2020 with EBITDA margins clearly above average.