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Biobased Chemicals

POET-DSM to pause cellulosic ethanol production

by Melody M. Bomgardner
November 23, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 46


The first US commercial-scale plant to make ethanol fuel from agriculture waste will cease production and convert to an R&D facility. The plant, in Emmetsburg, Iowa, was built by a joint venture of enzyme specialist DSM and ethanol producer Poet. The two partnered in 2012 to produce cellulosic ethanol, a second-generation biofuel that fuel blenders were mandated to purchase under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), part of a law enacted during the George W. Bush administration. The plant began operating in 2014, but in the years since, the US Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from the refinery industry, has reduced—rather than grown as expected—the required purchases of biofuels using a waiver program. The waning power of the RFS has also hurt the market for traditional corn ethanol and spurred farmers to lobby the Trump administration to strengthen the standard, with little success. “Over the last three years, EPA management of the RFS has held back cellulosic ethanol advancement, hindered future agricultural markets for U.S. farmers, and undermined what the President has promised,” Poet spokesperson Kyle Gilley says in a statement. Poet-DSM will reduce head count at the plant in February.


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