Nation’s second-largest ethanol co. to produce fuel from sorghum

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The nation’s second-largest ethanol producer will partner with a sorghum technology and seed company to convert grain sorghum into ethanol.

Under the deal announced today, Poet LLC will have access to 4,400 acres of grain sorghum in South Dakota to use at its largest facility, a 110-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D. The agreement with sorghum company Chromatin Inc. will allow the ethanol company to diversify its operations, said Poet Vice President of Operations Rod Pierson.

The South Dakota plant currently relies on corn for a feedstock.

“Sorghum is a fantastic grain for producing biofuel, and this arrangement will enable us to better manage costs and balance feedstock markets,” Pierson said today in a statement.

Sorghum, a heat- and drought-tolerant plant, needs little fertilizer or water to grow, making it attractive to biofuel producers. In the past couple of months, Chromatin has announced several similar agreements with ethanol producers, the most recent a multiyear deal to supply California-based Calgren Renewable Fuels with 30,000 acres’ worth of grain sorghum.

Ethanol producers, said Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss, are “embracing the benefits of sorghum as a drop-in replacement for corn.” The Poet deal is a “significant step” because the company is “one of the most experienced and respected bio-refiners in the U.S.,” Preuss said in a statement.

U.S. EPA recently opened up the renewable fuel standard to grain-sorghum-produced ethanol, allowing refiners to use it toward their annual obligations under the renewable fuel standard. The agency found that sorghum-produced fuel could count as either a conventional or an advanced biofuel, depending on the type of production process used (Greenwire, Dec. 4, 2012). It was not immediately clear whether Poet’s production process would qualify.