POET on Schedule to Reach Full Capacity at Emmetsburg Plant by Yearend

Source: By Michael Schneider, OPIS • Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2016

Milwaukee — POET Inc. is “on schedule” with plans to reach full capacity by the end of the year at the 20-million-gal/yr cellulosic ethanol plant it operates in Emmetsburg, Iowa, according to an official.

“We are continuing to see improvements every week, so it is moving in the direction we want it to move in,” Matt Merritt, director of public relations, told OPIS last week on the sidelines of the 32nd annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo.

“We are happy with the progress we are making right now and eager to get more and more cellulosic ethanol out there,” he said, adding that the company will then “be looking at licensing opportunities in the future outside of that.”

POET, one of the United States’ largest ethanol producers, completed the plant in 2014 with Dutch partner Royal DSM and is producing fuel from cornstalks and cobs as feedstocks. It began shipping cellulosic ethanol from it last December.

The company has said that the plant experienced challenges in handing the large quantities of corn stocks and cobs that are rolled in bales and sent to the plant, and that some equipment is being replaced to improve the feedstock process.

“Correct,” said Merritt. “It is really about biomass flow through the pretreatment. That has been the majority of the learning that we have been doing through this process.

“It is a brand new material that no one has ever used before, so just getting that test to flow properly has been a lot of the learning we’ve done.”

POET is also on schedule with its plan to expand production at three of its plants this year by a combined 25 million gal, according to Merritt.

“We are moving ahead with all of them,” he said. “They’re all still on track for this year.”

The company had said that annual output at its Hanlontown, Iowa, plant will rise to 64 million gal from 58 million gal; its Hudson, S.D., facility will boost annual production to 65 million gal from 58 million gal; and annual production at its Caro, Mich., plant would rise to 67 million gal from 55 million gal.

Separately, the cause of a fire last month at the Hudson plant that killed a contractor is still being investigated, according to Merritt.

“That is still under investigation, so we can’t speculate on that right now,” he said. “We have been cooperating, and I know that the contractor’s company has also been cooperating, with OSHA [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] through their investigation. We’ll continue to do so and we are looking forward to identifying the cause.”

A fire on the morning of May 6 “was caused by construction while the plant was shut down,” the company said.

POET operates 27 biofuel plants with a combined capacity of more than 1.7 billion gal/yr.