In South Dakota, POET worked with College of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering students at South Dakota State University to solve a major challenge that has impeded the use of some of its corn stover in its cellulosic ethanol production facility.
Turning netwrap and twine intermingled with corn stalks, tree branches and chunks of debris into an efficient fuel source is the challenge presented to one group. The team of three Senior Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering students tapped their brainpower as they searched for a way to efficiently process the waste materials into a useable fuel used at POET-DSM’s cellulosic ethanol plant at Emmetsburg, Iowa.
They developed a less energy-intensive process which increases reliability and decreases cost associated with converting corn stover to biofuels. The process needs to break down the waste material into a form so it can feed the solid fuel boiler system year-round.
One of the students was realistic that there were issues that didn’t always work out. “But we’ve had some success,” he said. “Netwrap is a very hard material to deal with. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. You can’t find the flowability of netwrap in a book or go online to figure out how to make this work.” He recently accepted a full-time job with POET in Sioux Falls after graduation and firmly believes his offer was a result of his work on this project.