The U.S. Department of Energy has handed over $76.3 million to POET, a large global ethanol producer, to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology.

Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., DOE selected POET in February 2007 to receive up to $80 million in federal funding to construct a commercial cellulosic ethanol production facility. The first phase of which began last October, giving POET $3.7 million for a preliminary design, engineering and feedstock collection for the plant. DOE's latest action provides the $76.3 million for the final design, construction, start-up and operation of the plant.

Called Project Liberty, the project involves transforming a 50 MGPY grain-to-ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, into an integrated corn-to-ethanol and cellulose-to-ethanol biorefinery, which POET and DOE will fund jointly. Once complete, the facility will produce 125 MGPY, of which 25 million gallons will be from corn fiber and corn cobs, according to POET officials.

By adding cellulosic production to an existing grain-ethanol plant, POET will produce 11 percent more ethanol from a bushel of corn and 27 percent more from an acre of corn while reducing fossil-fuel consumption and water use, according to POET.

Plant construction is expected to begin in 2009, and it could produce cellulosic ethanol as early as 2011.

Source: POET,