Grain News

Harvesting Cobs for Cellulosic Ethanol to be Studied by Poet

Date Posted: August 29, 2007

by Myke Feinman, BioFuels Journal Editor

SIOUX FALLS, SD -- The best way to harvest corn cobs will be the focus of a study starting this harvest as Poet begins its plans for Project Liberty, a 25 million gallon cellulosic ethanol per year (MMGY) plant to be built adjacent to an existing Poet ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, IA.

Poet, Sioux Falls, SD, announced June 27, that the company had successfully produced ethanol from corn cob cellulose.

Poet Energy
According to Dr. Mark Stowers, Poet vice president of research and development, the methods for harvesting the cobs—during corn harvest or after—storing the cobs and other related issues such as transportation and processing (chopping), are yet to be determined.

“Poet has nearly 10,000 farmer investors so we will be working with farmers and finding optimal solutions,” Stowers said.

“We will have somewhere between 60 and 90 different experiments conducted this fall that will help sort through a whole series of options,” he added.

The experiments, which will last for about a year, Stowers said, will also include stakeholders such as equipment manufacturers and agricultural extension researchers.

Projected Yields

Presently, the industry average for ethanol production is about 2.8 gallons for every bushel of corn. Poet boasts three gallons per bushel. Stowers said there is between .75 to one ton corn cobs per acre, depending on moisture content.

On an acre scale, Poet is able to produce about 435 gallons of ethanol per acre (based on 150 bushels per acre).

Stowers estimates that cellulosic ethanol production from corn cobs adds another 80 gallons per acre and fractionated fiber adds another 40 gallons per acre, bringing each acre’s ethanol production to more than 550 gallons.

But those projections may be boosted as technology is perfected, he said.

“We will continue to do research and development,” Stowers said. “There’s still an opportunity to improve the process.

"For example, we think that by 2020, technology should allow us to push it to 1,000 gallons per acre.

"Our ability to go beyond 3 gallons per bushel will be real,” related Stowers.

For more information, call Dr. Mark Stowers at 605-965-6428.

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