Corncobs to Ethanol

Sioux Falls company announces test success; will covert Iowa plant.

Poet – formerly known as the Broin Companies, Sioux Falls, S.D. - has produced cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.

The company, which is the largest dry mill ethanol producer in the U.S., recently announced their successful test. Poet intents to use corn cobs and other corn fibers the feedstock for a commercial cellulosic ethanol production plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The project will be jointly funded by Poet and the U.S. Department of Energy.

"For a host of reasons, Poet is focused on corn fiber and cobs as the first cellulosic feedstock for our production facilities," says Jeff Broin, Poet CEO. "First, the fiber that comes from our fractionation process will provide 40% of our cellulosic feedstock from the corn kernels that we are already processing in our facility. That means that nearly half of our cellulosic feedstock comes with no additional planting, harvest, storage or transportation needs."

Poet has also produced cellulosic ethanol from fiber, the husk of the kernel, which is extracted through its proprietary fractionation process.

"The rest of the cellulosic feedstock will come from corn cobs," Broin says, "which will expand the amount of ethanol that can come from a corn crop with minimal additional effort and little to no environmental impact. There is no major market for cobs, so we will be producing cellulosic ethanol from an agricultural residue and because the cob is only 18% of the above ground stover, it will not adversely impact soil quality."

"The cob has more carbohydrate content than the rest of the corn plant, giving us the ability to create more ethanol from the cob," says Mark Stowers, Poet's vice-president of research and development. "In addition, the cob has higher bulk density than the other parts of the corn stalk, so it is easier to transport from the field to the facility."

The cellulosic project that Poet is jointly funding with the DOE will convert an existing 50 million gallon per year (mgpy) dry-mill ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa into a commercial cellulosic biorefinery.

Once complete, the facility will produce 125 mgpy, 25% of which will be from cellulosic feedstock.

By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain ethanol plant, Poet says will be able to produce 11% more ethanol from a bushel of corn and 27% more from an acre of corn, while almost completely eliminating fossil fuel consumption and decreasing water usage by 24%.

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