Iowa Public Television


Project Liberty Breaks Ground

posted on March 16, 2012

Crude Oil prices fell about $2 briefly on Thursday as rumors circulated that the United States and Great Britain planned to release some of their strategic reserves.

Officials in Washington, however, denied the reports and by Friday, crude had rallied back above $107 per barrel. 

Gasoline is already over $4 per gallon in a handful of states and Friday's national average retail price of $3.83 per gallon is a record high for this time of year.

Renewable energy proponents say prices would be even higher were it not for products like biodiesel and ethanol.  They also believe the homegrown fuels play a pivotal role in quenching America's insatiable thirst for foreign oil.  And this week entrepreneurs broke ground on one of America's first commercial scale, cellulosic ethanol plants.   

Project Liberty Breaks Ground

With the turn of a shovel this week, one of the world’s largest producers of ethanol entered a new chapter in biofuel production.

Project Liberty, a joint venture between South Dakota-based Poet and Royal DSM of the Netherlands, broke ground on one of America’s first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities. The ceremony near Emmetsburg, Iowa, marked the beginning of full-scale construction on a facility that can process 770 dry tons per day of feedstock.  

Project Liberty’s model is based on using cellulosic stock, like corn cobs, leaves, husks and even some stalk to produce ethanol.

Steve Tanda, Royal DSM: “Not to be too dramatic but, right here, right now, right here in Emmetsburg, we are at the forefront of driving the shift to a new sustainable biobased economy. We are doing nothing less, nothing less than reinventing the way we will meet our needs for fuel and materials in the 21st century and beyond.”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad touted his state’s position as a renewable fuels innovator.

Gov. Terry Branstad, R – Iowa: “We’re a leader in ethanol, we’re a leader in wind energy, we’re a leader in biodiesel and we think cellulosic is the next step in something we want to promote and encourage. We’re also moving the state from E10 to E15 and blender pumps and eventually, hopefully we’ll be about 30 percent ethanol.”

The new facility will be built in the shadows of an existing POET ethanol plant. The facility will produce next generation renewable fuels AND other value added products

Jeff Lautt, POET President: “Beyond just producing ethanol this plant will have future opportunities to adopt other biotechnology to produce other bio-chemicals other biomaterials so we are really excited about the future.”

While previous work on cellulosic has only been done in pilot-scale, Project Liberty is slated to produce 20-25 million gallons annually.

Steve Tanda, Royal DSM, “This is just an evolution as industrial biotechnology cracks ever more difficult challenges. Don’t forget nature spent millions of years to make sure these cornstalks stand up and this is industrial technology to break them down and ferment them into ethanol.”  

Tags: biofuels corn economy energy exports farmers Netherlands news poet renewable energy renewable fuels stalks