‘Paused Production’ at Project LIBERTY

POET, LLC and Royal DSM partnership have decided to switch efforts to Research and Development

In response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent federal actions, POET, LLC, one of the world’s largest producers of ethanol, and its partner, Royal DSM has paused production of cellulosic biofuels at the Emmetsburg plant called Project LIBERTY. The term “cellulosic biofuels” is the use of crop, in this case corn, waste that is capable of being created into a renewable source.

Project LIBERTY has been in the Emmetsburg area since 2014 where it was created by the Royal DSM and POET, LLC partnership. The partnership, named POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, uses crop residue to produce ethanol that reportedly has an 85-95% lower greenhouse gas emission than gasoline. The opening of the plant had brought to the area more opportunities for jobs and additional funds to local area farmers who could expect to use the cobs and husks from their fields to sell to producers like at Project LIBERTY.

According to a press release from the POET, LLC website, the company has decided to pause this production due to the EPA:

“. . .  continuously implemented lower RVO levels for cellulosic biofuels, shrinking the market potential for this new technology”;

“. . .  announced 31 new small refinery waivers, reducing the annual blending amounts below statutory requirements, causing a precipitous drop in D3 RIN values removing an incentive for purchasing the product and commercializing the technology”;

“. . . blocked new cellulosic pathways by changing the approval mechanisms outside of the required legal processes, slowing the development and commercialization of processes that meet the intent of the RFS”.

According to the press release, POET’s Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Communications, Kyle Gilley said, “Over the last three years, EPA management of the RFS [Renewable Fuel Standard] has held back cellulosic ethanol advancement, hindered future agricultural markets for U.S. farmers, and undermined what the President has promised”.

Project LIBERTY is aiming to switch to research and development at Project LIBERTY, which is one of 27 corn ethanol plants.

“Because of these policy changes, the economic landscape for cellulosic ethanol in the US makes private and global investments in this technology more challenging”, President of DSM North America Hugh Welsh said. “As a result, our joint venture is responding by temporarily pivoting and focusing on R&D efforts to improve technological efficiencies and explore additional international licensing opportunities in countries that are not choosing oil over agriculture”.

According to a source at POET, 30 jobs will be cut in February at Project LIBERTY.

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