First Look: An Eye Toward the Future

At POET, we’ve always got an eye toward the future, even as we continue to improve the business opportunities of today. I’ve seen many projects move from “possible” to “probable” and finally to “reality” in my years in ethanol production. Each time, it takes a large number of people considering many different angles to make it happen.

I reflected on that as one of our most famous upcoming projects hit a significant milestone recently. The formal groundbreaking for Project LIBERTY in Emmetsburg, Iowa signifies a new stage, one that will make all of our hard work evident to the rest of the world as the steel-and-concrete structure of this revolutionary ethanol plant takes shape.

It is staggering to think of how many people are personally invested in Project LIBERTY. I vividly remember just five years ago standing on a stage with U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Boden and discussing what the future may hold for cellulosic ethanol. It was the formal announcement of an $80 million grant from DOE for cellulosic biorefinery construction. It was a key moment in POET’s drive to commercialize cellulosic ethanol, but it was only the beginning in bringing in partners to make this idea a reality.

Since then, many people have taken on crucial roles in this vision. Our constant partners have been those on the ground in and around Emmetsburg. It’s the farmers, who are contracting today or are planning to contract in the future to harvest leaves, husk, cobs and some stalk from their cornfields for Project LIBERTY. It’s also the Emmetsburg community at large, which has embraced its role as a pioneer in domestic energy production and made those of us at POET feel so welcome.

The agriculture equipment manufacturers have worked closely with us as the feedstock requirements evolved to help farmers meet their harvesting needs. They’ve been ardent supporters of this new dimension to agriculture in the United States.

We have research partners at Iowa State University and Idaho National Laboratory, people who continue to work to ensure that the feedstock is gathered and stored in the most sustainable and efficient manner possible. It is so important to consider sustainability at every step of the cellulosic process, and our research partners have broadened our knowledge considerably.

I already mentioned the Department of Energy as a key partner, and the state of Iowa belongs in that conversation as well. There are many people in government at every level who recognize the need to fast-track this technology, and they have helped pave the way for that to happen.

Of course many talented people at POET have been deeply involved in this effort for years. Our work in cellulosic ethanol is a point of pride within the company.

And as our most recent partner, taking on a 50/50 role in Project LIBERTY, I’d like to mention our international partner in this endeavor: DSM.

Project LIBERTY has a new ownership structure under POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels. DSM does nothing but make us stronger and adds an exciting new dimension to the dedicated team of individuals and groups who have worked with us from the beginning. POET brings the process technology, while DSM brings the enzymes and the yeast. Together, our technology holds what I believe is the best opportunity to succeed in cellulosic ethanol.

POET-DSM holds valuable the same things that Project LIBERTY has always held valuable: a commitment to community, a vision of vastly expanding our abilities to replace foreign oil, and collaboration with the farmers who are our most long-standing allies in this effort.

These connections are more important now than ever as we move down this final stretch toward one of the world’s first operating commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants. We continue to work hard to improve the opportunities surrounding process improvements, supply logistics, scale-up of the technology and the additional challenges of building this unique facility. I can personally attest that the pace of improvements over the last months has been remarkable.

While considerable progress has been made since the beginning, much of it has been hidden from public view. As vertical construction begins, I’m excited that the public will be able to see the tangible concrete-and-steel fruits of all our labors.

We’re not there yet. But in looking back at how much has been accomplished, I’m filled with confidence that we can fulfill this vision of pioneering a new source of clean-burning, renewable fuel for our country and world.



Vital is a news & media resource published by POET, presenting a variety of stories with the thought leadership one expects from the largest, most forward-thinking ethanol producer.