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DOE Funding Could Boost Cellulosic Ethanol Infrastructure

POET, the Sioux Falls, SD-based ethanol giant announced this week that it will get a $6.85 million funding increase to an existing grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. POET reports that this is the first of two funding increases from the DOE to help establish a market for corn cobs to produce cellulosic ethanol. The second increase, expected next year, is estimated to provide an additional $13.15 million.

The grant increases will play a key role in establishing corn cobs as a viable commodity and set the stage for corn cob harvesting across the U.S., reports POET. The company reports that the additional funds will be used to develop the feedstock infrastructure for cellulosic ethanol production.

POET will work with equipment manufacturers to help speed the process of getting cob-harvesters into fields around its Project LIBERTY facility in Emmetsburg, IA. Fourteen area farmers are harvesting cobs this fall with prototype equipment from a variety of manufacturers.

Meanwhile, POET will develop and test infrastructure for cob pick up, delivery and storage. This could serve as a future model for other biomass facilities.

The POET facility will be a 25-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that will be connected to its existing corn ethanol plant in Emmetsburg. It is expected to begin production of cellulosic ethanol in late 2011.

This past July, POET worked with equipment manufacturers to test harvest corn cobs in Texas. At that time, Scott Weishaar, POET’s vice president of commercial development, suggested that a variety of corn cob harvesters could be on the market soon. He added, “Farmers will have a lot of ways to take advantage of corn cobs as a new revenue stream.”

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