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Ethanol, ecosystem forms partnership

By Staff | Sep 16, 2011

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Developing a sustainable supply of biomass that helps restore degraded land is the goal of a new partnership between POET and The Earth Partners.

Dubbed Conservation Biomass, it will initially be used for heat and power generation and eventually liquid fuel production.

The Earth Partners and POET each bring a specific expertise necessary for the development of Conservation Biomass.

As part of its ongoing ecological restoration work, The Earth Partners will work with farmers and conservation property landowners to grow and sustainably harvest biomass from land with invasive vegetation or land where restorative plant species are grown.

POET will then evaluate the best use of the biomass to generate heat, power or for liquid fuel production.

The initial project will deliver Conservation Biomass to POET Biorefining, a 100 million-gallon-per-year grain ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D., that burns wood waste and landfill gas in a solid fuel boiler to generate all of its process steam.

Burning biomass at the plant to generate power will allow the partnership to test the commercial viability of the business model at scale.

POET and The Earth Partners will continue to research the potential for utilizing Conservation Biomass sources such as prairie grasses for cellulosic ethanol production.

The Earth Partners will validate that the Conservation Biomass is:

  • Sourced from degraded or marginal lands facing flood risk, erosion challenges, decreasing fertility, or other environmental issues.
  • Carbon-neutral.
  • Part of a documented ecological plan for the source land.

Co-benefits include:

  • Improved water quality and flood damage control.
  • Improved wildlife habitat.
  • Reduced land management/operational costs.

Scott Weishaar, POET’s vice president of commercial development, said POET sees great potential in Conservation Biomass.

“We are showing the compatibility of bioenergy production and sustainable land management,” Weishaar said. “This has the potential to simultaneously create a significant new revenue stream for conservation lands and large quantities of biomass for heat, power and liquid fuels.”

Steve Apfelbaum, head scientist of The Earth Partners and chairman of Applied Ecological Services, said, “The prospect of conservation biomass is so very exciting, as a powerful opportunity to incent and finance the restoration of degraded soils, grasslands, wetlands, forests and agricultural landscapes, and to engage private and perhaps public lands in a renewed process of land conservation and ecosystem restoration.

“A program such as this can also encourage a strategic convergence between national energy, farm program, and public lands policy development and programs that all benefit from this focus on restoring healthy soils and ecosystems.”

Fran Swain, senior business development analyst at POET said, “Conservation Biomass has the potential to generate value from marginally productive lands while simultaneously restoring ecological balance to those lands.

“POET is delighted to be chosen as TEP’s partner to help make Conservation Biomass a reality.”

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