POET-DSM achieves cellulosic biofuel breakthrough

New pretreatment system clears path for increased cellulosic production

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has achieved a major breakthrough in cellulosic biofuels production at its Project LIBERTY plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The company has solved the critical challenge in pretreatment, overcoming what has been the No. 1 hurdle to commercialization for producers around the world. Project LIBERTY is now running pretreatment at 80 percent uptime.

Pretreatment is the first stage in cellulosic biofuels production, where the feedstock (corn cobs, leaves, husk) is processed so that enzymes and yeast can access the cellulosic sugars and ferment them into biofuel. POET-DSM and other producers have identified this stage in the past as the major chokepoint in commercial production.

With a newly installed pretreatment system, designed by POET engineers, POET-DSM is now able to direct its attention to fine-tuning downstream processes and prepare for future licensing efforts that will spread this technology around the world.

“This is an enormous step forward for clean, American-made biofuel,” POET-DSM board member Jeff Lautt said. “Commercializing new technology is always a challenging task, and I’m proud of the commitment from our team in overcoming this major challenge and developing a path for replicating the technology at facilities across the US and world.”

2017 has been a year of rapid progress in Emmetsburg.

  • Solved the challenge of pretreatment
  • Announced construction of an on-site enzyme manufacturing facility to directly pipe DSM enzymes into the process. POET-DSM has an integrated process in which yeast and enzymes are used in concert with the feedstock.
  • Ramped up biomass purchasing in anticipation of increased production levels in 2018

Consistent policy is needed to enable this facility to be replicated in other locations. With biofuel volumes increasing in the future through rapidly rising demand for cleaner-burning, homegrown biofuels, such as E15, this technology is sorely needed.

“Where others have seen challenges, we have persevered,” POET-DSM board member Atul Thakrar said. “Cellulosic biofuel production is an exciting opportunity with a bright future, and POET-DSM will lead the way.”


POET, press release, 2017-11-02.