Pallets Fuel Controversy

SIOUX FALLS S.D.-Ethanol refineries typically run on natural gas, but the nation's top producer of the alternative fuel plans to use discarded wood pallets to help power one of its plants, as reported by DirkLammers, AP Business Writer.

Sioux Falls-based Poet is doubling the production capacity of its Chancellor plant to 100 million gallons a year, but a solid waste fuel boiler that will be "essentially a giant furnace" will help reduce its use of fossil fuels, said James Moe, chief operating officer of Poet Plant Management and Poet Design and Construction.

"The solid waste fuel boiler will burn waste wood to generate steam and power our ethanol facility," Moe said during a news conference.

Poet's Chancellor plant currently produces about 51 million gallons a year. Expansion began last year and is expected to be completed by the first or second quarter of 2008. The boiler system is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2008.

Rick Serie, the plant's general manager, said the newprocess will help the facility displace about 60 percent of its natural gasusage.

Poet officials didn't say how much that will reducecosts, but with rising crude oil prices, "it's a huge savings forus," Serie said.

Poet's Chancellor plant plans to use 150 to 350 tons ofwaste wood per day, which it will store in one of two on site storage bins.

A reclaiming system will pull it out of the silos andinto the solid waste fuel boiler, a box measuring about 70 feet tall, 20 feetwide and 15 feet deep. The heat will be used to boil water to make steam.

"The steam travels through a pipe into the plant,where it will replace much of the natural gas we use to power our productionprocess," Serie said. The plant will need a significant supply of woodwaste.

Poet has contracted with Sioux Falls-based Mueller Pallets, which will collect the wood waste and deliver it to the plant.

Mueller Pallets turns wood waste such as old pallets and tree branches into livestock bedding, mulch and other landscaping materials,said the company's John Kirchner.

"Large producers of waste wood such as manufacturers, tree services and construction companies can request onsitecontainers that we will, in many cases, pick up and recycle with our own fleet of trucks," Kirchner said.

Moe said Poet will evaluate the pilot project and couldexpand it to its other plants if it's successful.

With the September grand opening of its Portland, Ind.,refinery, Poet now has the capacity to produce more corn-based ethanol than any of its competitors, including agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland Co.,according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

Poet's 21 plants can pump out 1.1 billion gallons of the alternative fuel, and additional biorefineries under construction or development will eventually add 375 million gallons of capacity.

ADM has an annual capacity of 1.07 billion gallons with facilities under construction or development that will add 550 million gallons annually, according to the RFA.

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