Ethanol plant using corn waste moves forward

Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels is starting to hire workers for what could be the nation's first commercial-scale plant to make ethanol from corn crop waste instead of kernels.

The 25 million-gallon-a-year facility in northwest Iowa will begin making ethanol from corn cobs, leaves and husks early next year.

Poet spokesman Steve Hartig said the corn residue will be baled and shipped to the ethanol plant.

"The process is we basically take the bales and we shred the material, and it goes through a pre-treatment where it's heated and put with water," Hartig said. "And then we use enzymes that take that cellulose and convert it into sugars, and then yeast that convert the sugars into ethanol."

Some farmers in Minnesota are expected to send corn material to the plant, he said.

The plant has started to hire managerial staff, Hartig said.

"[We are in the] middle of construction now, and we'll be starting the plant up in the first quarter of next year," Hartig said.

Abengoa Bioenergy is also building a so-called cellulosic plant, which is due to open in Kansas about the same time as Poet's Iowa facility.

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