Biorefinery Starts Cellulosic Ethanol Production
Evaporation is part of the process to purify the ethanol.
© POET-DSM

Project Liberty, the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to use corn waste as a feedstock, started production on September 3. Once operating at full, commercial-scale, the biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year — enough to avoid approximately 210,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.   

Developed with the support of approximately $100 million in investments and research from the U.S. Department of Energy, the facilities use biochemical conversion technologies such as yeast and enzymes to convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels.

Project Liberty will produce cellulosic ethanol from corncobs, leaves, husks and corn stalk harvested by local farmers located within a 30 to 40 mile radius of the plant. It will produce 2,600,000 MMBTU per year from the anaerobic digester and solid-fuel boiler to power the entire facility as well as POET-DSM’s co-located existing corn ethanol plant.

The Department of Energy has supported this first-of-a-kind project's engineering, construction, biomass collection and infrastructure through approximately $100 million in cost-shared support over seven years, beginning in 2007.

Project Liberty is the second commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in the United States to come online. In 2013, INEOS Bio’s Indian River BioEnergy Center in Vero Beach, Florida, began producing 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from vegetative, yard and municipal solid waste. According to the DOE, Project Liberty will serve as a test bed for producing cellulosic ethanol with biochemical conversion technologies, helping to inform the design and construction of other advanced biofuels projects.