Community already cashing in on new ethanol plant - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Community already cashing in on new ethanol plant

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EMMETSBURG, Iowa (KTIV) A cellulosic ethanol plant will open in Emmetsburg, Iowa in the new year.

A decade in development, the $250-million biorefinery will come online during the first half of 2014.

The name is self-explanatory.

"We're able to offset even more foreign oil, and really get us that much closer to energy independence,” said Matt Merritt, Poet-DSM Spokesperson.

Project Liberty is going up next to Poet's eight-year-old grain ethanol plant. The main ingredient there: corn kernels.

Project Liberty will convert cornfield leftovers, like corn cobs, leaves, husks into cellulosic ethanol, creating an almost limitless possibility for generating ethanol, said Merritt.

“There's an entirely new crop that the farmers are able to get out of the exact same field where they're already growing grain,” Merritt explained.

While Poet began developing the technology to produce cellulosic ethanol more than ten years ago, work really ramped up in 2007. Now, crews are working around the clock to complete construction.

"Stackyard's complete. The fermentation areas are mechanically very close to completion. We have some building enclosures to go and some piping,” said Daron Wilson, the Plant General Manager, who took KTIV on a drive-thru tour of the construction site.

They'll start testing in the next few weeks. Although, commercial grade product may not be produced for another six months, Project Liberty's already having an impact on the community.

"A huge economic boom for the area. Not just in Emmetsburg, but really a 25-30 mile radius,” said Wilson.

Cruising through the staging area, and we see license plates from North Dakota to Texas. Three-hundred people are on the job, filling up hotels, eating at local restaurants, and shopping at area stores.

“There's actually construction workers who have enrolled their kids into school,” Wilson said.

New businesses are cropping up.

"We have an implement dealer, their husband and wife moved here from Minnesota specifically because of this project,” Wilson added.

Local farmers have already started supplying bales of harvest leftovers to the plant, and cashing in, in the process.

“We're creating $10-15-million revenue in a 40-mile radius,” he added.

While there are other cellulosic ethanol plants popping up, company officials say nothing is being built on this large a scale.

"The whole world is literally watching this project,” Wilson pointed out.

Poet is in the process of hiring 50-people to work at the facility when it opens.

The cellulosic plant will produce enough biogas to fuel the facility plus half of the original ethanol plant.

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