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POET: Cellulosic costs lowered

By Staff | Nov 27, 2009

POET Biorefining announced last week that cost reductions achieved over the past year of operating their cellulosic ethanol pilot plant have exceeded expectations in their drive to commercialize the process.

Reductions in energy usage, enzyme costs, raw material requirements and capital expenses have reduced POET’s per gallon cost from $4.13 to $2.35 over the course of the past year, and the company’s goal is to be below $2 by commercial plant start-up.

Jeff Broin, CEO of POET, said he is pleased with the progress the company has made over the past year.

“POET has been working on cellulosic ethanol for close to a decade and there were some days that I wasn’t sure we’d be successful,” Broin said. “While we still have some challenges ahead, I can say unequivocably that Project LIBERTY will be commercially viable by the time we start up the plant.”

Project LIBERTY is POET’s planned 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg.

Broin pointed to several areas of progress in the production process that helped them achieve the overall cost reduction:

  • Chemical raw materials required in the process have been reduced, resulting in an operating cost savings of $0.20 per gallon.
  • The energy used in the pretreatment process has been reduced by more than half.
  • Alternative energy technology has been demonstrated to provide all of the energy for the cellulosic ethanol plant and at least 80 percent of the adjacent corn-based plant.
  • Enzyme cost has been cut in half and is expected to decline by start-up of Project LIBERTY.
  • Through continuous optimization of the process, entire unit operations have been eliminated, reducing overall capital cost by over 40 percent.

Dr. Mark Stowers, senior vice president of science and technology for POET, said that there are some promising areas for future cost reductions in the cellulosic production process.

“There are still several opportunities to make the process more efficient,” Stowers said, “particularly in fermentation. Additionally our enzyme partners have committed to significant additional cost reductions.

But significant gains can also be made once we start up the commercial facility and POET uses its 20-plus year history in biorefining to drive cost reductions and efficiency improvements in the process.”

POET’s pilot-scale plant is in Scotland, S.D. and has produced approximately 20,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol since it started producing in November 2008.

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