DSM and POET to build commercial facility under JV

DSM and POET have joined forces to convert  a facility into its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the US, which will be based in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

The POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels joint venture will produce 20 million gallons of ethanol in the first year, growing to about 25 million gallons the year following.

The plant is due to come online in the second half of 2013 and will put corn crop residue through a biological process using enzymatic hydrolysis and then fermentation to produce the ethanol.

Speaking to Biofuels International magazine, DSM’s chief technology officer Marcel Wubbolts says the companies had been considering the joint venture for about a year and a half and that their combined skills are very complimentary.

‘One of the things that we were very impressed by was the way POET’s value chain operates. This includes from how to turn the corn to stover, to processing, transporting, grinding the corn and pre-treatment. The company has really developed these areas,’ he says. ‘We have vast biotechnology experience where we have been improving enzymes and cellulosic sugars for bioethanol production. It is in this way that we are complimentary.’

The project is expected to cost about $250 million (€192 million) and the companies will each own a 50% share in the business. Wubbolts says that joining with POET will mean future possibilities for expansion.

‘POET provides technology in 27 plants and has the capabilities to roll out the new cellulosic technology at these facilities which produce corn ethanol at the moment. Using this method we could really expand throughout the whole world if we wanted to,’ Wubbolts explains.

However, for the first phase of development under the joint venture, the companies will be focusing on the US.

‘There is a very strong biofuels industry right now in the US for corn and corn waste,’ says Wubbolts. ‘We are using corn residue and have already set up contracts with farmers for them to provide us with the biomass. And we are not using feedstock that could be used for food.

‘The reason why we are using cellulosic biofuel technology is because we estimate the process creates a 111% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to fossil fuels.’