At the NASCAR Green Summit today, POET announced plans to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of ethanol production 10 percent this decade and produce 500 million pounds of biobased products by 2015. The goals are part of its sustainability initiative to enhance the environmental performance of ethanol, Ingreenuity.
The GHG reduction goal, when combined with the 10 percent reduction the company has achieved since 2005, would represent a 20 percent cut from 2005 levels by 2020.
Speaking at the Summit, POET founder and CEO Jeff Broin said the company has dramatically increased the energy efficiency of ethanol production. “Since we started producing ethanol 23 years ago, we’ve cut our energy use by more than half,” Broin said. “In just the past five years, we’ve cut our greenhouse gas intensity by 10 percent. Now we’ve set a goal to reduce that by a further 10 percent and I have confidence that our team will meet and even exceed it.”
POET has produced ethanol with increasing efficiency primarily through steady advances in production technology. The most prominent of those advances is POET’s patented BPX process that converts starch to ethanol without heat, reducing energy needs by 10-15 percent.
Fossil energy use has also decreased at POET’s production facilities through the use of alternative energy. One facility is powered almost entirely by a waste wood boiler and landfill gas. Another produces biogas in an anaerobic digestor, and three facilities employ cogeneration.
A significant future reduction in fossil energy use is expected as cellulosic ethanol technology is added to POET facilities. Project LIBERTY, POET’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol facility, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 111% compared to gasoline partly because it eliminates the use of natural gas at the adjacent corn ethanol plant. Bolting the LIBERTY technology onto other POET facilities has the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of ethanol production significantly more than POET’s current goal.
POET also set an annual production goal of 500 million pounds of biobased products by 2015. Those products, like corn oil and zein the company is already producing, would replace a variety of petroleum-based products.
“To reverse the damage that oil has done to our planet, we need more than renewable fuel,” Broin said. “Petroleum is pervasive in our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are biobased alternatives to everything that comes from a barrel of oil, and POET is rapidly moving to commercialize those alternatives.”
These are the second and third goals of Ingreenuity, POET’s initiative to improve the environmental performance of ethanol. The first goal is to reduce the water intensity of ethanol production from an average of 3 gallons to 2.33.
POET, the largest ethanol producer in the world, is a leader in biorefining through its efficient, vertically integrated approach to production. The 23-year-old company has a production capacity of more than 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol and 9 billion pounds of high-protein animal feed annually from 27 production facilities nationwide. POET also operates a pilot-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, which uses corn cobs and light stover as feedstock, and will commercialize the process in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
Source: POET, LLC, press release, 2011-11-17.