POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will celebrate its grand opening September 3, 2014, becoming the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to use corn waste as a feedstock. Developed through a joint venture between POET LLC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and DSM Royal, a Dutch enzyme manufacturer, the project uses biochemical conversion technologies (yeast and enzymes) to convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has supported Project LIBERTY since 2007, with an initial $12.1 million grant for the design, construction, and operation of a cellulosic ethanol facility using corn waste, corncobs, and a biochemical conversion process. In 2012, Project LIBERTY was awarded an additional $87.8 million DOE grant to allow the project to begin construction. The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) provided cost-shared funding for POET to design, build, operate, and validate the technology and project.

Project LIBERTY will have an annual output of 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corncobs, leaves, husks, and corn stalk harvested by local farmers in a 30–40-mile radius of the plant—creating enough energy to power the facility, as well as a co-located bioethanol plant. Project LIBERTY is co-located with POET’s existing corn ethanol plant to allow the facilities to share staff and infrastructure, thereby improving economies of scale.

Project LIBERTY is the nation’s second commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery to come on line. 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. Project LIBERTY will serve as a test bed for producing cellulosic ethanol with biochemical conversion technologies, helping to inform future POET facilities, as well as other advanced biofuels projects across the nation.

As more commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries open, BETO and DOE are realizing their goal of catalyzing the development of a U.S. capability to produce cost-competitive renewable fuels from cellulosic biomass. Biofuels are a major component of a multipronged strategy that addresses enhancing our nation’s energy security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas and making our economy more energy-independent; decreasing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions; and creating domestic jobs.