Advancing the Sustainability of Biorefining
We believe biofuels are a promising alternative to fossil fuels, but not all biofuels are created equal. We strive to produce ethanol and other biorefined products with the smallest possible environmental footprint. Specifically, we have set goals to further reduce water use per gallon of ethanol produced and greenhouse gas intensity of our biorefinery operations. We call this initiative “Ingreenuity.”
Goal 1 – Reduce Water Use [60% complete].
As of November 2013, POET averages 2.6 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol. The first plant that POET purchased took in 17 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol in 1987. Today, POET averages less than 3 gallons of water, an 80 percent reduction from where it started. But we're not done yet.
POET believes that water is a precious resource and is committed to using as little of it as possible in our ethanol production process. So we have set a goal, to be attained by 2014, of decreasing the overall annual water intake at our plants 22% by targeting an average usage rate of 2.33 gallons of water taken in per gallon of ethanol produced. This will reduce our total annual water use by one billion gallons based on POET's 2009 production capacity of 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol.
POET engineers have invented a new way for its facilities to use water which results in a decreased intake with a reasonable economic payback. Named Total Water Recovery, it ensures that our facilities don't have to choose between profit and planet. Currently, 24 POET plants have installed some form of Total Water Recovery.
Most of the lifecycle water used in ethanol production is for growing the feedstock. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, almost all of that is from rainfall as less than 5 percent of corn used for ethanol production is irrigated. Still, water requirements of the feedstock represent the vast majority of the total lifecycle water use for ethanol production. POET is working with our feedstock producers to understand the amount of irrigated corn coming into our facilities in order to identify opportunities to collaborate for additional water conservation.
With many parts of the world facing water shortages, water conservation has become a global priority. That's why POET chose reducing our water usage as the first Ingreenuity™ goal. Currently, POET has cut water use by approximately 800 million gallons.
Goal 2 - Increase Sustainable Production [ongoing].
Since 2009, POET has increased ethanol yield by over 3%. If renewable fuel is going to be a true replacement for fossil fuels, we believe producers must always strive to improve sustainability. Throughout POET’s history, we have consistently produced more ethanol per bushel of corn through new technology, better management and small changes to the production process.
Goal 3 - Reduce GHG Intensity [33% complete].
Since 2009, POET has reduced GHG intensity by 3.3% and is on track to meets is 2020 GHG intensity reduction goal.
POET is committed to continuously driving down the amount of energy it takes to produce ethanol. That commitment is evident in the fact that we have been able to cut energy use in half since we started producing ethanol in 1988.
But POET is not done yet. That's why we have set a goal of reducing the greenhouse gas intensity (GHG) of our ethanol production a further 10% by 2020.
Driving the efficiency of ethanol production is an integral part of our history. POET has increased efficiency primarily through steady advances in production technology. The most prominent is POET's patented BPX process that converts starch to ethanol without heat. By adding BPX and other technologies to POET production facilities, the company has been able to decrease the GHG intensity of ethanol production by 10% since 2005.
Fossil energy use has also decreased at POET's production facilities through the use of alternative energy. One is powered almost entirely by a waste wood boiler and landfill gas. Another produces biogas in an anaerobic digester, and three employ cogeneration.
A future reduction in fossil energy use is expected as cellulosic ethanol technology is added to POET facilities. By supplying its additional by-product energy to the adjacent corn ethanol plant, Project LIBERTY is designed to reduce the use of natural gas at POET Biorefining - Emmetsburg. Bolting the LIBERTY technology onto other POET facilities could reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of ethanol production significantly more than POET's current goal.
Because ethanol fermentation is a biological process, POET believes that the opportunities for improvement are virtually limitless. Once we reach the goal of reducing GHG intensity by 10%, we plan to continue driving the efficiency of ethanol production well into the future. After all, that's what we do best.
Goal 4 – Bioproducts [complete].
Thanks to Voilá™, a bio-based corn oil derived from POET’s BPX process, POET has already met its fourth goal of producing 500 million pounds of bio-based products by 2015. Since 2009, over 700 million pounds of bio-based products have been produced.
Reversing the damage that fossil fuels have caused to our planet involves far more than just replacing gasoline with renewable fuels. POET is more than a renewable fuel producer, and our biorefineries produce more than just ethanol, which is why POET will continue to perform research activities to seek out more opportunities for additional bioproducts and will continue to be a leader in bioproducts development and production.
Those bio-based products will directly replace products derived from petroleum and are a major focus of POET's research and development efforts. They include products like zein, an edible protein extracted from our distillers grains that can be used as an alternative to petroleum-based films, packaging, adhesives, edible coatings and glazes. Our zein is called INVIZ™.
Another bio-based product is our corn oil, Voilá™, that is derived from POET's BPX process. Voilá is used in biodiesel production as a high-energy additive to feed rations or as a renewable oil source for plastics and rubber production. Voilá™ is now installed in all of POET’s 27 plants and as of November 2013, over 350,000 tons of corn oil have been produced by POET plants.
As the world became addicted to cheap oil, the substance became pervasive in our lives. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are bio-based alternatives to everything that comes from a barrel of oil, and POET is committed to commercializing those alternatives so the world can lessen its dependence on oil in all forms.