THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE Spring 2021
From Field to Freeway Research shows bioethanol has 46% fewer GHG emissions than gasoline
By Jeff Broin
by Ryan Welsh
by Brian Hefty
Automotive Advice from the Under the Hood radio show
Out Of Left Field
by Scott Johnson
Energy For Life
Prime the Pump
POET’s Vital magazine is an important conduit to share how POET is moving our country and our world from depending on fossil fuels to producing sustainable resources from the Earth. We will represent the voices of producers and biofuels supporters, as well as educate and inform readers about agriculture and industry knowledge, opportunities and the power of the human spirit.
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34 People of POET
From Field to Freeway
Groton Quality Manager has a bright — and busy — future
Research shows bioethanol has 46% fewer GHG emissions than gasoline
16 Fighting Fires & Flash Freezing POET captures opportunity with renewable CO2
26 Building Beyond POET POET Design and Construction leverages expertise to external clients
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Voilà! POET rolls out co-product for renewable diesel feedstock
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Why Bioethanol? A Global Name for a Global Solution by Jeff Broin, Founder and CEO of POET We have entered a new era of decarbonization and global
While it is still a renewable, plant-based, clean-burning
fuel, significant improvements have been made in both the production process and the life cycle analysis of starch-
With that, we feel it is time to utilize a new word that
embodies the only truly sustainable liquid fuel that can power the future. So, throughout this issue of Vital and in
In fact, according to a recent peer-reviewed study
future communications from POET — and soon from the
conducted by Environmental Health & Engineering (EH&E),
industry at large — you will begin to notice a new term:
one of the nation’s leading environmental and engineering
companies, bioethanol now has 46% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline. Put simply, that means
As the worldwide need for immediate, affordable climate
it is already 46% better from field to freeway, and that
solutions grows more and more prevalent, we need to start
number is improving every year.
thinking of the potential for biofuels to extend far beyond the Corn Belt. The term “bioethanol” has been used in countries
With continuous innovations in process technology and
across South America, Africa, and Europe for years, where
agricultural production practices, we believe bioethanol
it has been celebrated as a fuel choice for its benefits to
may even have the potential to become a carbon-neutral
the environment and human health. In the United States,
liquid fuel in the future. According to most scientists, we
however, we have always used the term “ethanol,” which
have no time to waste. Bioethanol is available, it’s affordable
doesn’t speak nearly as well to the consumers looking for a
and it’s the only way to decarbonize the millions of vehicles
green alternative at the pump.
that are already on the road today.
I believe it’s time we join the rest of the world. It’s time that we are all on the same page, using the same term and the best available solution to fight climate change together in the Renewable Revolution.
The key phrase to this name change is in the prefix “bio,” which means “life.” And I think that’s fitting, given our mission. What we do extends far beyond just fuel. We are creating life from life — taking nature’s solar panels and batteries, namely the corn leaves that capture the sun’s energy and the seeds that store it, and using them to fuel our world. We are harnessing the power of the living Earth God gave us and combining it with human ingenuity to create solutions that will enable life to continue on this planet for generations to come. So, why bioethanol? Because as we look ahead, it’s a word that will play an integral role in achieving our goals. It’s the best term to describe the incredible things we do in this industry and the clean, green nature of our product. Please join me in making the change to bioethanol — a better
It’s critical that we educate the public that the “bioethanol”
word that will play a large part in creating a better future
of today is the same “ethanol” of years past—but better.
for us all!
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
ENERGY FOR LIFE
BUILDING YOUR HOUSE UPON THE ROCK! by Melissa Fletcher, Spiritual Care Advisor, POET
careful, the sand traps can cause us to fall. On the other hand, when we choose to build our house on the Rock we begin to build on Biblical truths and the
When I was child, one of my favorite Sunday school songs was “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock” because it had a catchy little tune and fun actions. The song was based on the parable found in the Bible in Matthew 7:24-27 which says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
promises of God. When we begin to build our life on the Scriptures, we become solid in our faith, and our actions will follow. In the parable the storms of life came. But what kept the house from falling was the foundation it was built upon. My friends, storms will come; however, we can be sure that we will not be destroyed by the storm if our trust is in the Lord. What kind of builder will you be? Wise or foolish? Rock or sand? To be a wise builder, here are a few recommendations you may want to include in your spiritual blueprint:
1. Develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
I think it is fair to assume that we all would want to build a house on a firm foundation and not one that is built on sand. In the parable Jesus is referring to our life and not necessarily a physical house—and in this case, I would venture to guess that we would desire to build our life on a firm foundation as well.
Allow Him to guide your life.
2. Commit to the Word of God. Take time each day to read and study the Scriptures.
3. Develop a deep prayer life. Praying is talking to God and including Him in your
But do we take the necessary steps to ensure this? In the grand scheme of things, every choice we make can lead to destruction, or it can lead to security. Everything we do begins with a thought, and those thoughts lead into our actions. Let’s face it — this past year has been filled with uncertainty, constant change and many challenges. Perhaps you have faced some storms that have shaken you, like health concerns, financial worries, relationship struggles and job stress, to name a few. When you are building your house on sand, it’s easy to become consumed with the worries and concerns of this world. Even small everyday distractions and fears can prevent you from trusting in God. These worries
and fears are what I call “sand traps.” And if we aren’t
4. Commit to a local church. The Church is the way Jesus desired for His work to continue throughout all the Earth. We need each other and everyone has a part to play.
5. Serve others. Jesus modeled this for His disciples. Out of an overflow of our love for God and our love for each other we become the hands and feet of Jesus. These things are the beginning to building on a firm foundation. There are many more ways to become wise in building a life upon Jesus, the Rock, and I challenge you to keep searching the Scriptures so that when the storms inevitably come, you won’t be shaken.
ENERGY FOR LIFE
EASY SADBUSTING WORKOUT
Equipment-Free Circuit Workout Level: Beginner or Intermediate
by Cole Fricke, Wellness Coordinator, POET If you’ve been stuck inside all winter — especially this winter — you’re probably going a little stir crazy, but perhaps also finding the motivation to be active a little hard to find. The weather is not so great, the sun isn’t shining, and you’ve settled into a winter hibernation routine. It’s a perfect storm for inactivity and possible Seasonal
acronymed SAD). But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and spring is near! To make it easier for you to bust out of hibernation and get active, here’s a quick and easy workout for people of all ages and abilities. No equipment is necessary, and you don’t even have to think too hard since the workout is already drawn up for you. Plus, physical activity, any activity, is a great weapon to fight SAD and the depression, melancholy, and physical
Warm Up: 5 minutes. Walk briskly, walking up and down stairs, or stepping up and down on a single step.
Workout: Move from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible, keeping your rest time as short as you can. Feel free to modify as needed to make it easier or harder, adding or reducing reps and rest time based on your ability.
1. 25 Jumping Jacks 2. 10 Crunches 3. 60 Second Plank 4. 25 High Knees (each knee) 5. 10 Burpees
ailments that come with it.
6. 15 Crunches
Exercise makes for great medicine, plus the prescription
7. 15 Bodyweight Squats
is free. As a bonus, you can grab the kids and get them involved too! They’ll be happy (and you’ll be happy) for the energy outlet.
8. 10 Pushups 9. 1 Minute Wall Sit 10. 60 Second Plank 11. 10 Bodyweight Squats 12. 25 Jumping Jacks 13. 10 Crunches 14. 1 Minute Wall Sit 15. 10 Pushups 16. 25 High Knees (each knee) 17. 60 Second Plank 18. 1 Minute Wall Sit Cool Down: 5 minutes of active stretching.
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
POET PAC Member Spotlights
Steve Kirby Sioux Falls, SD
My connection with POET goes back more than 25
POET PAC members are the reason we continue to have success in Washington D.C. Each member is passionate about a future with more biofuels and is willing to fight for that future at the state and federal level. Not only do these members advocate tirelessly; they make sure they contribute to POET PAC each year so that we can continue to educate and advance our mission. Here is what some of our South Dakota PAC members had to say about their connection to the PAC and their thoughts about the importance of a future powered by biofuels.
years. Jeff Broin was nice enough to invite me to many corporate events in South Dakota, Iowa, Arizona and Washington DC. Our private equity firm, Bluestem, has made substantial investments in POET and I remain a happy investor today. Additionally, one of my Bluestem partners, Tyler Stowater, is on the POET Board of Directors. Giving to POET PAC is actually a fun thing to do given all the good that the PAC does nationally. Ethanol is such an important part of the world’s liquid energy make-up that being motivated to financially participate is easy! POET PAC does so much for all communities in which it has bioprocessing facilities, including the farmers, other vendors and employees. Those impacted by POET should support the PAC so it can be even more successful in representing the biofuels industry worldwide. It was a good day when I and Bluestem were introduced to Jeff Broin and his terrific team all those years ago. We’ve been given the opportunity to make our communities and, frankly, our world a better place by the use of ethanol. By making the POET PAC stronger and more financially viable, we can continue to improve our environment, help the farming industry and provide a great standard of living for all who spend their day having something to do with the biofuels industry.
Sioux Falls, SD
Mitchell, SD My involvement with POET began as an investor in I am a producer in the Mitchell, SD area and am a third-generation farmer. I served as a board member for two years at POET Biorefining – Mitchell from 2016 to 2017 and one year for POET Biorefining (PBR) in 2019. I became involved with POET PAC in 2018. POET PAC provides a fact-based, consistent message to educate elected leaders about the benefits of producing biofuels, a clean-burning renewable fuel source. They are dedicated to monitoring and defending critical items such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), small refinery exemptions, and many other issues that tend to undermine renewable volume obligations and weaken our industry. I would stress that the task at hand is urgent. Agriculture and biofuels can be an enormous part in creating solutions to pollution and climate change. There are those who do not want to see biofuels succeed, and they have significant resources. It is imperative that we continue to engage our leaders and decisionmakers to ensure that they are informed to make the best decisions. Without
and potential of our industry in solving current environmental issues can be lost or misrepresented. We need to support the progress that has been made to date and challenge ourselves to move to the next level in our efforts to make positive change.
POET Biorefining – Big Stone near Milbank, SD around 2002. In 2003, the James Valley ethanol plant in Groton, SD was built. I invested and served on the board of directors. As POET continued to expand, I served on multiple POET Biorefining boards until completion of the merger of the biorefineries in 2018. As we all know, energy is political and controversial, whether it’s coal, gas, oil, wind, hydro, solar or biofuels. When ethanol production took off in the early 2000s, myths and false information about the industry began to surge. It was David (ethanol) versus Goliath (Big Oil). It became clear that we needed to organize and form a PAC to help educate politicians and level the playing field. Ethanol producers and farmers needed face time with the policymakers and deserved a seat at the table to present the truth, which is where the formation of POET PAC came in. I’ve supported POET PAC since its inception, and it is without a doubt the most effective way to have direct influence in the political arena. Media and mass marketing have their place, but to be able to press the flesh one-on-one with senators, representatives and even the President, it must be done through a political action committee. The staff at POET PAC are smart, articulate, informed and connected. They know all the players and all the players know them. The PAC understands specifically where resources need to be directed. The mission of this organization is invaluable, and I feel that contributing to POET PAC to help sustain agriculture, biofuels and the environment is an excellent investment in our future.
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
I began as an investor before serving on the board of POET Biorefining – Big Stone for seven years. While on the board, I found out how important political advocacy is to all of us. Because of this, I started donating to POET PAC and lobbied on behalf of biofuels. For six years I attended conferences across the country, including Washington D.C., in an effort to advocate for a future with more biofuels. I still give and will continue to give both money and time to POET PAC because I see what those dollars and efforts attain. Ethanol would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the political advocacy that has been done and continues to be done. The president, Congress and the EPA need to be kept informed about our issues. POET PAC helps toward that cause. Big Oil is our major competition to the fuel supply in the world, and their lobbying efforts are huge because of their budget. POET PAC enables us to be more competitive in this lobbying effort. The world’s fuel supply is about market share, and Big Oil doesn’t want to give it to us. We need to expand our share. That’s the battle, and D.C. is the battleground. Too many people and organizations are anti-ethanol. I believe most have been misinformed by Big Oil and other groups. As an agricultural educator of 38 years, I have realized the importance of getting the right information out in order for people to make good decisions. Accurate education is a solution to this. Educating federal and state policymakers concerning ethanol has been POET PAC’s mission, and it’s one I’m proud to be a part of.
Want to get involved? Join POET PAC today.
My connection to POET goes back to the early years, when Jeff Broin started the operation in Scotland, South Dakota. When I was asked to join a group of farmers to explore the feasibility of constructing an ethanol plant in our area, I became excited about the prospect of processing our corn production and producing a valuable livestock feed. I quickly became an investor, helped lobby on the state level, and had the privilege of serving on the Chancellor plant board for many years. My engagement with POET over the years has only strengthened my belief in getting involved and the need to advocate for pro-ag and pro-biofuel policies at the state and federal levels. The massive production of corn in the U.S. is a great accomplishment. The right environment, combined with timely rains and sunshine along with fertile land, yields more than can be eaten and exported. Biofuels like ethanol provide an excellent opportunity for surplus supply. Essential products such as hand sanitizers, sweeteners, asphalt and many other valuable products can be made from corn. The biggest demand is fuel for transportation. Consumers need to know that if they support a future with more biofuels, great products will be delivered to them — products that are free of harsh chemicals derived from petroleum. But the oil guys won’t give up their market shares easily, and that is why your engagement in POET PAC is critical to our future. Coming together with other pro-biofuel supporters is the only way we will accomplish our work in Washington. Thanks to the strength of POET PAC, we have accomplished a lot over the years, but I know this is just the start. Together we will create a future with higher blends and an overall better world!
Contributions to POET PAC are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes. Contributions to POET PAC will be used in connection with federal elections and are subject to the limits and prohibitions of federal law. The maximum an individual may contribute to POET PAC is $5,000 per year ($10,000 per couple). Corporate and foreign national contributions are not permitted under federal law. Please make checks payable to POET PAC. Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to obtain and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer for each individual whose contributions aggregate in excess of $200 per calendar year. Your contribution to POET PAC is strictly voluntary.
PAID FOR BY POET PAC
opportunity is everywhere if you know where to look
At POET, the workday ends, but the work never does. We’re using renewable resources and our endless passion to create biofuels, nutrient-rich protein THE and ESSENTIAL oil alternatives. PERSPECTIVE
From Field to Freeway Research shows bioethanol has 46% fewer GHG emissions than gasoline by Jessica Sexe
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
(CI) score of corn-based bioethanol.
a long time. “For years, we’ve known
planted in the field to the
The report offers further research
we’re not getting a fair score for the
fuel pumped into your gas
into the impact biofuels can have in
environmental and health benefits
tank, new evidence proves
immediately reducing emissions that
of bioethanol,” said Doug Berven,
contribute to climate change and
Vice President of Corporate Affairs at
of bioethanol and provides a roadmap to net-zero liquid fuels. A
life cycle analysis (LCA) modeling and
consulted with more than two dozen
experts in academia, government, and
46% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG)
nonprofit organizations to calculate
emissions than regular gasoline, and
the most comprehensive and up-to-
there’s an opportunity for even more
date carbon intensity score (CI) for
significant improvements as we look
corn starch bioethanol in more than a
published the new report, authored by a team of scientists at Environmental Health & Engineering (EH&E), which provides an updated carbon intensity
Researchers from EH&E reviewed
An LCA calculates the greenhouse
Despite all the talk these days about
climate and carbon, the modeling on bioethanol had not been updated for
from field to freeway. “The study was a comprehensive analysis of every
input into the bioethanol production
“The analysis compared several
emissions—a much smaller amount
process. We wanted to quantify the
studies and their inputs and found
than generally recognized. The 25-fold
carbon intensity at each level to set a
many inconsistencies in previous
reduction in LUC since 2008 is due to
baseline and determine where we’re
models which had minimized the
better data inputs for LUC modeling
doing well and where we can improve
actual benefits of bioethanol and
that consider both the economic value
in the future,” said Berven.
agriculture,” said Berven.
and productivity of cropland.
The findings reflect a 50% decrease
of CI estimates for bioethanol since
land would be cleared in response
2009, attributed to land-use change
to an increase in the price of corn.
overall sustainability by providing a
(LUC) model improvements, greater
This assumption has been proven to
current, comprehensive and accurate
efficiencies in bioethanol production,
be false by extensive data on corn
picture of bioethanol compared to
reductions in fertilizer application
production and price over time.
conventional gasoline today.
and fuel consumption, and corn yield
“Early on, many believed that
production would cause significant land-use
have is about agriculture’s impact on the environment. This study showed that farmers are a solution in the fight against climate change, and they continue to improve every year,” said Berven.
A dramatic improvement in the CI
As noted earlier, the updated LCA
for LUC, which previously accounted
modeling and emissions data show the CI score for corn bioethanol is 46% lower than conventional gasoline today. The previous USDA modeling suggested the CI score for bioethanol to be 39-43% lower than gasoline.
score was due to updated modeling for a large portion of bioethanol’s CI score. EH&E’s assessment showed carbon emissions
land uses to corn farming make up only 3.9% of biofuel’s total GHG
“One of the most common misunderstandings many people have is about agriculture’s impact on the environment. This study showed that farmers are a solution in the fight against climate change, and they continue to improve every year.”
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
biofuels industry only soaked up
vehicles, policymakers must have
surplus grain and had minimal--if
accurate, evidence-based conclusions
any--land-use change impact, and
for available fuel sources. “In light of
the empirical data proves that,” said
the United States’ renewed effort to
achieve a net-zero carbon economy, our
critical review is a timely contribution to establishing an accurate, common understanding of the GHG profile for corn bioethanol in comparison to gasoline refined from crude oil,” stated David MacIntosh, EH&E Chief Science Officer and Adjunct Associate Professor of Environmental Health
Low-Carbon Policy Programs As
state and federal level join the fight against climate change with transportation GHG
emissions from passenger
“The results of this
at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study highlights bioethanol’s
opportunities to help shift the U.S. away from fossil fuel dominance to cleaner fuel alternatives. “Future
low carbon fuel standard or other programs, on
research are timely for
hypotheses,” says Berven. “The reality
the scientific, public
and clean and need to play a much
is biofuels are immediate, affordable larger role in the future.”
There are nine emissions categories associated with the LCA of bioethanol: farming,
production, land-use change, rice methane, livestock, fuel and feedstock transport, denaturant and tailpipe emissions. Some
opportunities to further decrease bioethanol’s CI score are possible through
farming technology and bioethanol production. “The results of this research are timely for the scientific, public health,
health, legislative, and
legislative and business communities
economy while addressing related
seeking to establish a
challenges,” says MacIntosh.
seeking to establish a net-zero carbon technological, political and economic
net-zero carbon economy while addressing related technological, political and economic challenges.”
Net-Zero Renewable Fuel of the Future
implementing cover crops. “Even
the near future, meaning not only in
are we not contributing GHGs, we’re
emissions, such as fossil fuel use
agriculture can lead to major benefits
reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere.”
and soil disruption, as well as those
for the environment, and biofuels
associated with supply chains, such as
play a role in incentivizing those
fertilizer production. Bioethanol LCA
improvements,” says Berven.
models have shown a steady decline
in the CI score for corn farming
have an opportunity to reduce the CI
attributable to decreased energy and
score further by exploring alternative
fertilizer use which are the largest
components of GHG emissions for
growing and harvesting corn.
and expanding the production of
coproducts like corn oil. With simple
adjustments, bioethanol production
practices like precision agriculture,
could deliver a net carbon sink over a
much shorter period than previously
environmental benefits. According
to the study, the CI score for corn
“We’ve come a long way, and there
produced from states in the upper
is more opportunity to continue to
Midwest, which supply the bulk of the
decarbonize,” said Berven. “One of the
corn to bioethanol production, could
most exciting things about the study is
be reduced in the region by up to
that not only are we 46% cleaner than
74% by adopting conservation tillage,
gasoline; we have the potential to be
reducing nitrogen fertilizer use and
a net-neutral or net-negative fuel in
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
“Even small improvements in agriculture can lead to major benefits for the environment, and biofuels play a role in incentivizing those improvements.”
Fighting Fires & Flash Freezing POET Captures Opportunity with Renewable CO 2 by Steve Lange
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
they use in everyday life that CO2
fact, the top meat processors in the
impacts in some way,” says McIlvain,
U.S. are POET customers.
produce up to 2 billion
who joined POET Ethanol Products
POET utilizes its exceptionally clean
gallons of bioethanol.
20 years ago. “Just start by looking in
stream of CO2 gas to supply a wide
band of consumers ranging from
production process is just
Carbon dioxide is a main component
the start, literally, of dozens of co-
in the freezing process for everything
facilities to the largest food and
products — things like animal feed
from meat to fruits to vegetables. In
beverage producers in the U.S.
and corn oil and hand sanitizer — that POET captures or creates along the way. In the mid-1990s, POET recognized the chance for large-scale capture of carbon dioxide (CO2), a natural coproduct of bioethanol production, and started testing the idea at a pilot plant in Scotland, South Dakota. By 1998, they were capturing — and selling — CO2. Today,
supply the highest-grade, all-natural liquid carbon dioxide to customers across the U.S. for everything from fighting fires to flash freezing food to carbonating beverages. Led by POET Ethanol Products’ carbon dioxide group in Wichita, Kansas, the company now has the capacity to produce in excess of 600,000 tons of CO2 every year. And, unlike other suppliers of CO2, they can do it with renewable resources. “The pace of growth in our CO2 business
industry,” says Christian McIlvain, President of POET Grain. “We’ve added eight new CO2 plants in the last eight years, making POET the fastestgrowing CO2 production company in the United States. And there’s a big market out there.” And that CO2 market is larger and closer to home than you might think. “Most people would probably be surprised at the number of items
“We’ve added eight new CO2 plants in the last eight years, making POET the fastest-growing CO2 production company in the United States. And there’s a big market out there.” Christian McIlvain, President of POET Grain
the door, but our customer service
is what allows us to remain in the
hundreds of individual customers
Another, bigger-picture aspect that
Brad Jones, CO2 Sales Manager for
separates POET’s CO2 from others
POET Ethanol Products. “We are a
is the fact that it’s largely created
full-service business meaning we
handle everything from production,
environmentally friendly. It plays a
to transportation and transaction
part in boosting the farm economy.
“We’re proud to be producing
POET’s own biorefining process
something sustainable,” says Jones,
produces and captures the CO2. Their
who’s been with POET since moving
production facility then turns that
from Louisiana (in a “Gulf Coast world
CO2 into its liquid form, and POET
surrounded by petrochemicals,” he
drivers deliver that liquid CO2 all over
says) in 2003. “Our CO2 comes from
the country in POET-owned tanker
what grows from the earth, not what’s
buried in the earth. The large power
plants and the refineries are, for
obvious reasons, less environmentally
industry,” says McIlvain. “When a
friendly than bioethanol. We’re not
customer is doing business with POET,
mining it. If you’re a business trying to
we’re really handling everything in
be more responsible, you know you’re
the production process from A to Z.”
POET’s prices, says McIlvain, are
friendly, agricultural-based product.”
competitive. They have to be.
Roughly a quarter of the CO2
“If you were to ask our customers
what they think of POET’s CO2
comes from deposits found beneath
offering, we’d hope they’d tell you our
the earth, according to Intelligas
customer service is best in class,” he
says. “Price may be what gets you in
invasive drilling, sometimes as deep
as 10,000 feet. Other leading sources of CO2 suppliers include ammonia production facilities and oil refineries, both of which rely on their heavy CO2 emissions in order to capture some of that for resale. The
ammonia emits more CO2 than any other
according to Chemical & Engineering News. Oil refineries, which according to the EPA emit roughly 180 million tons of CO2 every year, also manage to capture some of those emissions for
approximately 15% of the U.S. CO2
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
production. “One of the nice things about the CO2 that we offer is that it’s principally renewable,” says McIlvain. “Companies
interested in providing products to their customers that are in sync with the environment. Our CO2 is a better solution for companies who are in search of sustainable ingredients for their production process. Fortunately, that matters to many companies and many consumers, especially those in the food business, who already realize the importance of U.S. agriculture.” POET additional
within the CO2 business.
POET Biorefining, located in Macon, Missouri was fitted with a new, state of the art dry ice production facility. “We’ve talked about entering the dry
“We are the only truly fully integrated CO2 producer in the industry. When a customer is doing business with POET, we’re really handling everything in the production process from A to Z.”
ice business for a number of years and
we took the step in early 2020,” says
McIlvain. “Things are going really
Energy Information Administration,
well, but it was a lot of work. I’ve
by mid-April 2020, average gasoline
used this as a half-joke on a number
consumption in the U.S. had dropped
of occasions, but ‘Note to self: Never
to 252 million gallons per day, down
start a new business in the middle of
from a 2019 daily average of 392
But when fuel demand dropped
During that same period, both
due to pandemic travel restrictions
last spring, many POET co-products,
bioethanol had fallen by 50% from
“Our CO2 comes from what grows from the earth, not what’s buried in the earth. The large power plants and the refineries are, for obvious reasons, less environmentally friendly than bioethanol.”
POET’s long line of innovative add-
Growth Energy. So when fuel demand
ons from the bioethanol production
plummeted, POET refocused some
process, the CO2 team understands
of their bioethanol-only energy into
the value of finding more and more
other bioproducts, like carbon dioxide
ways to turn corn--every bit of it--into
and hand sanitizer.
The addition of dry ice production
“Whenever we have looked at
at POET’s Macon plant came online
at an opportune time. Dry ice usage
business, we’ve always considered
is expected to increase with the
our customers to be partners in our
shipment of millions of COVID-19
efforts,” says McIlvain. “We know
vaccines, many of which require
people appreciate products that are
temperatures of nearly 100 below
good for the environment, that are
renewable, that support American
“We have a long history of finding
new ways to use everything we
“We do that with bioethanol, and
produce,” says McIlvain. “If someone
we do that with everything else we
at POET sees an opportunity, we will
pursue it.” So it has gone for POET’s 30-plus years. Like with everyone involved in
This year POET biorefineries who went above and beyond the call of duty were honored with POET Biorefining Awards. There were three categories of awards: Biorefinery of the Year, World Class Biorefinery and the Progress Award. Awards are assessed by a range of criteria, including: safety record, operations, environmental policies and procedures, housekeeping, leadership and strategy. This year, POET Biorefining — Fostoria took home the Bio of the Year award while POET Biorefining — North Manchester, Leipsic, Gowrie and Groton all received World Class Bio awards and POET Biorefining — Glenville received the Progress award.
BIOREFINERY OF THE YEAR
POET Biorefining — Fostoria
POET Biorefining — Glenville
POET Biorefining — North Manchester
WORLD CLASS B I O R E F I N E RY POET Biorefining — Gowrie
POET Biorefining — Groton
POET Biorefining — Leipsic
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
Optimism After the Storm by Ryan Welsh The hail beating down on the roof and walls of the machine shed
I’ve heard the saying that storms make trees take deeper roots.
was deafening. I could hardly hear my uncle yell, “Okay, let’s
In March 2020 the ethanol industry did that very thing. We were
make a run for it!”
just emerging from the “perfect storm” of 2019 when the global pandemic struck home, adding insult to injury. But the industry
My other uncle shook his head as he stared at a now archaic
sprang into action. It was a time to rethink, a time to be fervent,
DTN screen. “It’ll be over soon!” he yelled as we ran out the door
and a time to innovate.
to the pickup. We slowly drove through the rain and hail half a mile down the hill to the house.
implemented and, once again, the biofuels industry showed its It was the early 90s, and I was farming part-time at my uncles’
strength. Innovation was the key to weathering this unexpected
during college. I remember walking back to the pickup after the
storm and growing deeper roots. This industry, although still
storm with orange gravel juice creeping up the sides of my old
relatively young, proved that it had the gumption of an old oak
basketball shoes. The sun was gaining more power as it fought
— that it was far more than just a sapling.
through the heavy, sweet-smelling air. It seemed so calm. NASCAR, a longtime partner of the bioethanol industry, was As we headed back the nearby creek was too swelled up to
weathering its own storm. A professional sport whose lifeline is
pass, so we reversed course and drove around to enter the farm
its fans found itself fan-less. It too was not going to stand around
from the west. We drove by one of our bin sites at a neighbor’s
and wait to see what happened; NASCAR optimistically pushed
place and slowed down to look. “Great,” was my uncle’s bleak
response. One of the old Butler bins blew into the other during the storm, leaving both completely wrecked. We walked into the shop upon returning to the farm and my other, more optimistic uncle said, “See? I told you it’d be a short one.” “Yeah, well we just surveyed some major damage,” replied my more cynical uncle. “The bins are destroyed at the Fox place, and water is standing everywhere. It’s over, let’s start lining up the machinery for the sale.” He was always planning for the worst. My other uncle calmly pointed out that those bins were empty and it was time to replace the bin site at the Fox place anyway. We didn’t have to line up the machinery that year and the crops were just fine. We had to weather a number of those small storms in the short time I farmed with my uncles, and the farm always seemed to prosper after those trials.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports last March, NASCAR had an advantage with iRacing, which allowed drivers
2020 eNASCAR iRacing at Richmond
to continue racing each other virtually. Drivers had fun with it and it gave fans quarantined at home a taste of sports during the 10-week hiatus, until officials figured out how to safely bring racing back to the real-life track. When NASCAR finally returned to the real track in May, everything was different. COVID protocols, new schedules, no practice, no qualifying and no fans in the stands made it eerie for those of us watching.
definitely a tale of two seasons. NASCAR is used to being scrutinized over attendance and television ratings. But in this most unprecedented of years, NASCAR was the only major sport to not only hold on, but grow its audience (except at the physical track, of course). Critics believe ratings stabilized, in part, to NASCAR being the first major sport to return during the pandemic. NASCAR weathered the storm just as my uncles did — with a little ingenuity and a lot of hope. I believe opening up to new formats and concepts was critical in helping NASCAR gain new viewers, and their success was driven by some good old-fashioned optimism.
Kevin Harvick celebrates with a burnout after winning The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway in May.
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
Building Beyond POET by Matt Merritt
POET Design and Construction leverages expertise to external clients Many people know POET as the
“There’s up and down times. On the
largest biofuel producer in the world.
down times we weren’t busy, so it was
What many people don’t know is
‘What can we do to fill those down
that much of the company’s early
times with external work?’”
success through the 1990s was as a
design and construction firm, building
POET seeks opportunities to grow its
bioethanol plants for companies who
existing business and branch out into
saw the Broins turn a mothballed
areas that make sense. This was a
building into a profitable enterprise
in Scotland, South Dakota.
“We’ve got a very experienced,
talented workforce here that could do
developed over the years into today’s
more, and so the real objective is to
POET Design and Construction (PDC),
take advantage of that,” Pierson says.
the arm of POET that has built its
“The main thing is this opportunity
entire network of 28 facilities across
to grow, to utilize this experience to
And now for the second time, they’re
Unlike the 1990s, POET Design
setting their sights outside POET’s
and Construction does not build
walls, making their army of engineers
bioethanol bioprocessing facilities for
and project managers available to
external clients, nor will they work on
external clients. With an expanded
commercial construction or assembly
focus, POET Design and Construction
“We’re trying to identify opportunities to do combined heat and power projects or water conservation, those are things that we have experience with and can help others with.” Rod Pierson, Senior Vice President of PDC
took on six outside projects in 2020 and is looking to grow in 2021 and beyond.
A Drive for Efficiency, Growth There
expanded its focus last year, says Rod Pierson, Senior Vice President of PDC. The first has to do with managing the ebb and flow of engineering and construction work. With only one customer – POET – there were times when work slowed down. They knew they had the bandwidth to branch out. “It happens in any company in the construction industry,” Pierson says.
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
focused on industrial production and
Engineering, says they have many
projects such as loading and transport,
advantages entering the marketplace.
cereal grain processing, sustainability
Most companies starting out don’t
have the breadth of services PDC has
Pierson says their clients must fit
at its disposal, he says. In addition,
POET’s mission in being a “friend to
PDC has the advantages of a large
the environment.” Along those lines,
company, but it operates with the
environmental work is one area in
efficiency of a smaller firm.
which PDC excels.
“We’re big, and we’ve got a lot of
people, but we’re not so big that we’ve
got a lot of segregation of our duties
heat and power projects or water
and engineers,” Hass says. “I think
conservation, those are things that we
our customers to date have been
have experience with and can help
really appreciative of the fact that
others with,” Pierson says.
we’ll have, for instance, weekly phone
calls where we have the whole project
team on the phone with the customer going through design. That’s unique
A key part of the value proposition PDC provides is what Director of Project calls
have engineers and project experts in multiple disciplines working together under one roof. “If our project manager needs to go talk to the structural engineer or the structural engineer needs
“There’s a lot of continuity to design, which translates over to the construction site, limiting change orders, eliminating collisions in the field, things like that. That’s a huge benefit I don’t think many people understand.”
to collaborate with somebody in mechanical, they can do that in the same building,” he says. That
throughout the process. “There’s a lot of continuity to design, which translates over to the construction site, limiting change orders, eliminating collisions in the field, things like that,” he says. “That’s a huge benefit I don’t think many people understand.” “It speeds things up,” he says. “So if people want to get in the ground, if they have a deadline, if they have investor pressure, or if they have economic pressure due to the calendar year. Speed to design, speed to shovelready is something we’re really good
Ron Steffen, Director of Project Management
New Challenges are Nothing New The PDC team is used to new challenges. They’re used to tough timelines. They’re experts in creative and efficient solutions to capture new opportunities. One such opportunity last year within
producing alcohol for hand sanitizers. The
immediate demand for a product that POET was well-positioned to provide. However, fuel-grade bioethanol is not the same as the purified bioethanol used to make hand sanitizer. The PDC team had to engineer a process while every day that passed meant another missed
consumer demand. Pierson said they had investigated purified alcohol in the past, and that knowledge helped them move quickly. “When COVID came along and the need came along, we were able to use the base knowledge we had of what the process for purified alcohol
From left to right: Rod Pierson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, POET Design & Construction, Ron Steffen Director of Project Management, POET Design & Construction, Adam Hass, Director of Engineering, POET Design & Construction
looks like to come up with a way to retrofit our current facilities,” he says. “At the same time, we decided to move forward with the full-scale purified alcohol projects and had to move quickly to try to get in front of everybody else to build them.” Steffen said they put together a plan with an 11-month timeframe to completion. That wasn’t fast enough, so they reworked the designs and shaved off three months. He’s
accomplished. “It’s been incredibly fast, and it looks great,” he says. “The team just worked incredibly efficiently to get this done.” The industrial alcohol facility in Leipsic, Ohio, is opening soon, with another
scheduled for startup in May.
the site,” Dunning said. “When we
went down there and I explained
Dunning Express, headquartered in
transloading for bulk solids and liquids. They reached out last year to PDC for help designing a new rail transloading/servicing facility in St. Joseph, Missouri on the site of an old city waterworks plant. Owner and President Mike Dunning said PDCs experience with biofuel facilities, which includes traffic flow, loading and storage among other things, made them an ideal company to tackle the project. He took some of the PDC members on a visit in August to look at the site, which included “old basins and weird old buildings.” “A lot of people would have turned around and run when they first saw
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
what I wanted to do, they got it. They understood.” PDC’s experience is their biggest advantage, says Todd Gee, Operations Manager for Dunning Express. “They
process and overall layout,” he says. “Obviously they’re pulling from how many plants they’ve built and pieces of those plants that they like or don’t like as far as the flow of the facility. They have direct experience.” Traffic flow is an important area that can often be overlooked, Dunning says. “It kind of comes in waves, and if you’ve got a big wave, you’ve got to have a place to put the trucks, and you need to have a plan to get them processed through there in a hurry,” he says.
one hand that’s great for POET. It’s
experience there that anybody else
also just really great for our engineers.
we could’ve hired probably wouldn’t
They love jumping into something
have had,” Gee says.
new and learning about it, so it helps
Steffen at PDC says Dunning Express
with motivation and stokes the fire a
knew how to leverage that experience
to their benefit.
Hass said the work has been
“They really leaned on us hard for
useful for POET in assessing its own
ideas and thoughts,” he says. “‘Here’s
competency. They knew they had
what we want to do, how would you
a strong team at PDC, but unless
guys do this?’ I think that’s a really
you go after contracts in the wider
market, you don’t really know how competitive you are.
Benefits to POET’s Team
They’ve discovered that not only are
PDC offers a breadth of experience
to external clients. But the variety of work is also adding new experience to POET’s own team. Hass said that’s a win for POET and a win for the team members’ own professional development.
they competitive, they have distinct in
companies that often don’t have access to the breadth of experience at PDC. “As we learned more, it became apparent that we have a lot to offer in this space,” Hass says.
“We’ve been pushed into lots of new technology areas,” he says. “On the
More to Come The
growth. Despite the challenges in marketing a new business during COVID quarantines, they now have a solid year to build on. PDC is adding a business development position to increase marketing efforts in 2021, and they have met with a number of potential clients for future work. The
external projects has been a learning experience, but they’ve been able to take these new challenges in stride. Steffen is not surprised. “We’re somewhat new to external work,” he said. “But we’re not new to work.”
POET Design and Construction offers a full range of services including: • Process Engineering • Mechanical Engineering • Structural Engineering • Electrical Engineering • Civil Engineering • Milling and Material Handling Engineering • Supply Chain Management • Drafting • Environmental Engineering • Process Automation Engineering • Project/Construction Management
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
Biden’s Climate Cabinet
POET applauds President Biden’s leadership in making climate a top priority with the nominations of Michael Regan for the Administrator of the EPA, Tom Vilsack as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and the appointments of John Kerry as U.S. Climate Envoy and Gina McCarthy as the White House Climate Advisor. Each member of the Biden Climate Team will play a key role in helping the administration make good on its commitment to fight for family farms, end environmental injustice and shift the nation to netzero emissions. Below are past statements of support for biofuels and climate action from each of the Climate Team members.
Gina McCarthy — White House Climate Advisor “…the biofuel industry is a great American success story. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of biofuels, and we’ve used more renewable fuel than all other countries combined. So EPA’s proposal has to continue to build on that success and to spur ambitious yet achievable growth.”
Pete Buttigieg — Secretary of Transportation During his 2020 presidential run: “The biofuels industry has enabled us to take great strides in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. We will work with farmers on policies and incentives that reward best practices and drive innovations that are good for U.S. agriculture and good for our climate. Additionally, we will stop the abuse of “small refinery” exemptions, which allows fossil fuel giants to skirt their obligations to blend biofuels. To do this, we will immediately stop giving small refinery waivers to fossil fuel giants and raise the renewable fuel standards.”
Michael Regan — Administrator of the EPA “…you do have my commitment that we will take a look at the RFS program and we will introduce some transparency into that program. We will let science lead us and we will follow the letter of the law as it was intended. President Biden has not been shy that agriculture will have a seat at the table as we tackle climate, and he’s been specifically focused on biofuels and advanced biofuels.”
Tom Vilsack — Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture “I think there’s a way in which we can utilize USDA resources and work with Congress to increase those resources to build out the infrastructure to make it easier for higher blends to be available to consumers. Why? Because at the end of the day, consumers benefit: they have less expensive fuel, they have a cleaner-burning fuel, they have a fuel that’s better for the environment. And as we look at the future, I think biofuels continue to play a role in reducing emissions and providing job opportunities in all parts of the country.”
John Kerry — U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate “The impacts of climate change are already being felt everywhere in the world: the Arctic, the Antarctic and everywhere in between. All you have to do is look at the conditions farmers are dealing with around the world: hotter
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
PEOPLE OF POET
Groton Quality Manager has a bright — and busy — future
helsie Bickel is the Quality
pesky insects, Bickel has proven
Manager at POET Biorefining
speciation, trapping, sorting, testing
herself to be more than capable as a
– Groton, but that job title
for West Nile virus, and administering
quality manager –– a role that involves
barely scratches the surface of
larvicide, all for the city of Aberdeen.
what she brings to the table.
Mosquitoes were a seasonal job,
laboratory to coordinating research
On the job, Bickel is known for
so Bickel also worked with the Day
trials and running the fermentation
jumping in wherever work needs
County Conservation District dealing
to get done. She takes on extra
responsibilities and projects, goes
planning for Pheasants Forever.
management as a key product lead
above and beyond to help out her
At the time, one of her husband’s
(KPL) for co-products, specifications,
coworkers, and promotes POET in
the community by leading plant
tours, hosting 4-H camps, and giving
Biorefining — Groton, and he referred
presentations at area schools.
Bickel to the company because of her
But her energy doesn’t tap out
background in science. She applied
for the quality manager position and,
Outside of work, she is a loving wife,
six and a half years later, she’s never
mother of two, ambitious graduate
“It was a complete switch from working outside all day to being in an
and — wait for it — a mosquito expert.
office, sitting at a desk and actually
The Aberdeen native says she’s always
looking at the numbers,” she said. “It’s
looking for something new to keep
definitely been more of a challenge
her busy, whether it’s professional
when it comes to managing people
development or a road trip to track
and learning the analytics, and, of
down vintage lamps.
From Managing Mosquitoes to Managing a Lab — A Shifting Career
collector of mid-century furniture
“She’s a team player, and she’s not afraid to cross the lines of her position to go help wherever it’s needed,”
completely new to me.”
In that role, she focuses on the animal
Though her day-to-day focus shifted,
food safety program for the entire
fleet, not just Groton.
perspective from her time managing
something or I’ll get bored, which is
“Groton is built on a slough, and
why I take on extra work from plant
management and research,” she said.
After graduating from Northern
insects,” she said.
“I love to be busy, I love to contribute
Employees at the plant needed a
and I love what I do here. It’s never
degree, Bickel dove into the world of
way to stay cool in the summer, so
boring. If there’s a boring day at the
Bickel advocated for screens that
plant, you haven’t made enough work
with internships in fisheries and
would let the fresh air in but keep the
mosquitoes at bay.
Kelly Kjelden, Groton’s General
“I spent a lot of time in waders, doing
“Mosquitoes at a plant are a hazard
fish surveys, electro-fishing, and gill
that not many people would think
throughout her time at POET.
netting for fisheries management in
about, but my experience has really
“It’s not a great chore to come up
northeast South Dakota,” Bickel said.
driven home some of the dangers.”
with those things that make Chelsie a
fantastic team member and manager,”
Besides protecting her team from
he said. “The first thing that comes
transitioned to a job in entomology
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
to mind is her work ethic. She just knows what needs to be done and gets after it, even if it means coming in early or staying late, or popping in on a weekend, or even answering the phone in the middle of the night.” Kjelden adds that Bickel takes pride in a job well done, and that she is driven by goals, objectives and a desire to better herself for the benefit of her team and the company. “She’s a team player, and she’s not afraid to cross the lines of her position to go help wherever it’s needed,” he said. Working beyond the responsibilities of her job title is something Bickel takes seriously, whether that’s in the lab or in different areas of the company. “I’m very much of the mindset that a Quality Manager should be able to step in and do anything their lab techs are doing. If they need help with anything, I step in, and vice-versa,” she said. She also works closely with POET Nutrition to coordinate Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) training, an FDA requirement for the food safety program. Bickel is a lead PCQI instructor, and she’s working to bring more standardized training to the program. Additionally, Bickel recently started an online MBA program through Pittsburg State University, which she hopes will enhance her understanding of higher-level business operations beyond the more technical aspects of her job. These are just a few of the myriad ways Bickel invests in her work
“It’s one thing to get up on stage and talk about what you do, but to bring someone in and actually show them is really cool,” she said. “We usually host a couple of high school chemistry classes, and I get to walk them through the plant, pull samples with them, and do experiments.”
with POET, both in the day-to-day
or her additional pursuits. She has a
operations and the long-term vision.
passion for science that drives her to
“Chelsie has a bright future with
promote POET within the community,
POET, and I think she can do whatever
particularly to young people.
she wants. She has that ability,”
“I love talking about what I’m doing,
Kjelden said. “I can see her in higher
especially if it’s something I’m super
levels of leadership at the plant, if
passionate about, and reaching out to
that’s what she wants.”
kids about science is something I wish
Pursuing Her Passions, Both at Work and at Home
I had more of in my youth,” she said. Bickel has volunteered to judge local science fairs on multiple occasions, and sometimes she even gets her coworkers to participate as well. “You get to give the kids feedback,
Bickel’s commitment to POET goes
and they tend to ask you a lot of
beyond her role as Quality Manager
questions about what you do,” she
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
said. “I get to tie in their projects to some of the things we do at POET and maybe plant the seeds for future interns.” If there’s an opportunity to share her heart and passion for science, you can bet that she’ll be there, whether that’s with area students or her own young daughters. In 2020 Bickel had the opportunity to speak at the annual Women in Science conference in Aberdeen, an event for girls in grades 7-12. Prior to the pandemic, the Groton plant offered tours for area students, and Bickel would regularly volunteer as
“I love talking about what I’m doing, especially if it’s something I’m super passionate about, and reaching out to kids about science is something I wish I had more of in my youth.”
1950s and 1960s. “My husband and I started this collection about ten years ago,” she said. “The style of our house is very mid-century, and you just can’t buy solid walnut dressers anymore. We spend a lot of time going to auctions and estate sales.” Whether it’s time spent driving to furniture sales or horse shows, or enjoying the outdoors on the ranch, spending time with family is of the utmost importance to Bickel. Between
professional pursuits, it’s hard to
tour guide. Last summer, she hosted
imagine how she manages everything.
30 fourth-graders for a 4H science
If you get the chance to talk to her,
camp, and they enjoyed some simple
however, you’ll hear it in her voice
experiments using lab equipment.
— an unmistakable sense of passion
And on the weekends, you can often
and drive that keeps her coming back
find her girls, Kamryn and Karsyn,
every single day.
tagging along while Mom gets work done in the lab. “It’s one thing to get up on stage and talk about what you do, but to bring someone in and actually show them is really cool,” she said. “We usually host a couple of high school chemistry classes, and I get to walk them through the plant, pull samples with them, and do experiments.” Though
about science for days on end, Bickel tends to an array of other hobbies at home. She and her husband own a small ranch east of Groton, where they raise cattle and own a few horses that their daughters ride and show on the weekends. Inside the house is their impressive collection of mid-
century furniture, dating back to the
Voilà! POET Rolls Out Co-product for Renewable Diesel Feedstock by Holly Jessen
ooking at the changing landscape of biofuels, it’s clear renewable diesel is one to watch. It’s an environmentally friendly drop-in fuel with a lot of potential. “It’s definitely a growth market and potentially a high growth market,” said
Director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council. “It could be an exponential growth market.” Fueled
policies providing subsidies and tax incentives, POET expects renewable diesel production to grow by 300 percent in the next three to four years. For example, there’s the $1 per gallon federal blender’s tax credit, which is set to expire in 2022. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), is also particularly strong driver. “From
a demand perspective, California is
more beneficial and more profitable
really moving the needle,” said Tim
it is to some of these markets
Norling, Portfolio Strategy Manager
like California, Oregon and some
Canadian markets that also look for a
In addition, distillers corn oil has
low carbon fuel,” he said.
a favorably low carbon intensity (CI)
Now, POET has a distiller’s corn
score under the LCFS. Based on an
oil feedstock targeted specifically for
average score of renewable diesel
renewable diesel production called
producers currently in production,
Voilà Premier. The co-product goes
distillers corn oil has a carbon
through the company’s patented and
intensity score of 30.87, Norling said.
In comparison, soybean oil has an
allowing the customer to bypass that
average CI score of 55.215. “The idea
step at the production facility, said
is, the lower the carbon intensity, the
Dave Bushong, POET’s Senior Vice
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
President of Research.
fuel derived from a barrel of oil,”
“We think this product is going to be
Bushong said. “So it looks the same,
the preferred feedstock when looking
functions the same and performs the
at other potential alternatives like
soybean oil or animal fats,” Norling
Of course, a big difference between
the two fuels is that renewable
“The idea is, the lower the carbon intensity, the more beneficial and more profitable it is to some these markets like California, Oregon and some Canadian markets that also look for a low carbon fuel,” Tim Norling, Portfolio Strategy Manager for POET
diesel is produced from renewable
production at one of POET’s 27
feedstocks, making it much more
bioprocessing facilities. The company
is in the process of starting up
diesel. “It’s an 85 percent reduction
production at a second location with
in greenhouse gases,” Norling said.
plans to continue expansion, as called
“That’s a pretty big piece to this.”
for by demand. Any crude corn oil can
One recent example of an oil
be used as a feedstock for renewable
refinery shifting to renewable diesel
diesel production. However, metals
production is CVR Energy Inc. The
company announced in a Dec. 21
production process, typically at the
press release that its Wynnewood,
renewable diesel production facility.
If not, it could damage the plant’s
unit will be converted to produce
catalyst, causing a catastrophic failure
that could cost weeks of downtime
renewable diesel per year. Costs are
and millions of dollars, he said.
estimated at $110 million, which
POET’s Voilà Premier, on the other
CVR Energy said it expects to recoup
hand, is a purer product that has
through the generation of renewable
gone through a process to remove
identification numbers (RINs) as well
as the blender’s tax credit and LCFS
that are in the kernel as a part of the growing process. “It is a very unique process,” Bushong said, adding that the POET process is advantaged due to reduced process yield losses and
transportation inefficiencies for the renewable diesel producer.
More About the Market
product stream it took a year to reach commercial production at a POET biorefinery, Norling said. It has now been a little over a year from when the first gallons of Voilà Premier were
As a fuel molecule, renewable
sold into the marketplace in December
diesel is indistinguishable from diesel
and can be produced with the same
“Our team of scientists started
equipment used to produce diesel at a
working to figure out what they
petroleum refinery. “They crack apart
could do and our team of sales people
the molecule of vegetable oil, in our
started figuring out what the market
case, Voilà Premier, and reassemble it
wanted,” Bushong said. “We began
to be identical to a molecule of diesel
to walk those two paths parallel to
“We spent a lot of time and resources testing to prove without a reasonable doubt that our product is as good as we say it is and it’s repeatable, as we say it is... we know we can do it all the time, every time, with the technology that we developed.”
each other until they converged at our
product the company is confident the
Voilà Premier product.”
consumer wants. “We have extremely
One of the first steps was to develop
low metals in our material and a high
a process to detect metals in distillers
degree of clarity,” he said, “and we
corn oil. The company’s in-house
know we can do it all the time, every
science team worked on that with the
time, with the technology that we
help of third parties, such as university
researchers and others. “We really worked hard to understand how to measure and characterize the metals and then how to resolve the problem,”
Bio Vs. Renewable
Bushong said. The next step was to perfect the process to remove the metals. In the end, POET created a scientifically validated
thoroughly tested. “We spent a lot of time and resources testing to prove without a reasonable doubt that our product is as good as we say it is and it’s repeatable, as we say it is,” Bushong said. In fact, Bushong considers the process “pretty darn bulletproof.” In
POET believes renewable diesel has a lot of potential. Biodiesel does have positives, such as its lubricity factors. But renewable diesel can be dropped into the fuel supply without limitations. Norling agrees. “We’re going to see a pretty large shift from biodiesel to renewable diesel over the next couple years,” he said. One selling point of renewable diesel is that it can be transported, stored
Dave Bushong, POET’s Senior Vice President of Research
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
and sold in the same infrastructure as
regulation, transformative outcomes
diesel and at a 100 percent inclusion
could happen in the transportation
rate. “You can just drop it in and go
and you don’t see any fuel mileage
have a situation where renewable
reduction,” Bushong said.
diesel, particularly from sustainable
Biodiesel, a methyl ester fuel, is
typically sold in blends no higher than
tremendous potential to grow,” he
B20. “It gets stored in its own tank and
gets shipped in its own rail cars and it
Coleman stressed that the best
can’t go through a pipeline,” Bushong
solution would be to stop providing
said, “so it has all these logistic
policy incentives for the use and
“I would certainly like to see, when someone pulls up to the pump, 100 percent of that fuel dollar stay in the United States. And renewable fuels are one of the best ways to do that.”
infrastructure hurdles in its way.”
extraction of oil and move toward
Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council
take on this front.
temperature it gels up in a fuel
incentives for clean and renewable
tank in cold weather, is another
fuels. That would help address the
problem of climate change and oil
renewable diesel has that issue too
dependence. “I would certainly like
but it’s a much lower temperature
to see, when someone pulls up to the
than biodiesel because, again, they
pump, 100 percent of that fuel dollar
are reforming the molecule to match
stay in the United States,” he said.
indistinguishably different from a
“And renewable fuels are one of the
diesel molecule,” he said.
best ways to do that.”
The growth of renewable diesel, as well as other biofuels, depends on how quickly and aggressively carbon regulations–including
are implemented, after only being implemented well intermittently since 2007, Coleman said. The unknown at this point is what actions President Joe Biden and his administration will “I think there’s a temptation to look for a new shiny object, new policy,” he said. “But the reality on the ground is, we have a greater chance of reinvestment in existing law, and that’s the RFS, than we do at creating a new law, even with the current makeup of Congress.” If the RFS were embraced for what it is, a fuel diversification and
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PRIME THE PUMP
PRIME THE PUMP
Thorntons Goes Green with E15 by Janna Farley
and lots of visual marketing on-site and at the pump for their guests, said
corporate priority for Thorntons.
Lee Stevens, Fuel Supply Manager for
The gasoline and convenience store
retailer prioritizes recycling, energy
“At the time when
efficient appliances and the use of
we got in, it was before
eco-friendly cleaning products in all
most of the competition
of its locations. It’s switching to LED
was marketing E15,”
lights both inside and outside of all
Stevens said. “So it was
new and remodeled stores. And it
a great opportunity for
makes a special effort to reduce its
us to give our guests
energy consumption by “harvesting
daylight” – that is, Thorntons uses
Much of Thorntons’
natural lighting at each of its stores to
initial success with E15
reduce the use of electric fixtures.
in the Chicago market
But more than that, Thorntons
can be attributed to
is committed to eco-friendly fuels.
the Prime the Pump
That’s where E15 comes in.
“At the time when we got in, it was before most of the competition was marketing E15. So it was a great opportunity for us to give our guests something new.”
E15 to its guests in the Chicago
market about five years ago. While
retailers to provide E15 access and
Illinois farmers rank second in the
assists early retail adopters of higher-
country in corn production, biofuels
level biofuel blends by awarding
weren’t something Thorntons’ urban
grants to help with their initial
customers were necessarily familiar
investments in infrastructure and
with. So Thorntons made education
consumer marketing and education.
about E15 a priority, with training
The biofuels industry has invested
modules for their team members
nearly $85 million in this initiative.
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
The retailers involved in the initiative
put E15 in the car, they see the same
have seen a competitive advantage
performance and they don’t spend as
with higher income, lower pump
much doing it. It’s an easy choice.”
prices and higher-octane E15, as
After the success in the Chicago
well as increased traffic to their
market, Thorntons quickly moved to
convert more sites
“Thorntons is among 20 of the
to offer E15. Today,
largest retail chains in the United
61 sites in Chicago
States offering its customers E15,”
said Mike O’Brien, Vice President
Kentucky, offer E15
of Market Development for Growth
and the company is
Energy, the nation’s leading biofuel
to add E15 to an additional 34 sites
U.S. fuel market.
across its six-state
It didn’t take long for Thorntons
Chicago-area guests to learn that E15
that’s E15 at each
— a biofuel blend containing 15%
and every fueling
plant-based bioethanol — is a cleaner-
burning, higher-octane, and more
benefits of E15,” Stevens said. “They
represent about 15 percent of the total
each said days,
“We certainly see our E15 sales growing as we continue to move into more stations and more markets. Being able to put more gallons of environmentally friendly fuel made from American-grown corn into your car is a benefit that can’t be beat.”
have to educate its guests on the
That means Thorntons can focus on
benefits of E15 as much as they had to
increasing its sales of E15.
“We want to sell more gallons of
“In the markets we’re in, people
liquid fuel, and E15 is a way to do
know what E15 is,” Stevens said.
that,” Stevens says. “By offering E15
“People in urban Chicago might not
— a higher octane fuel at a discounted
have known much about ethanol in
price — we’re able to retain our
the past, but people everywhere are
current guests and attract new guests
so much more familiar with it now
that see the benefit of this product.”
and they know their car can handle
it, so they’re much more open to using
Thorntons rolls out E15 into additional
In fact, these days, there’s not too
“We certainly see our E15 sales
much difference between sales of
growing as we continue to move into
E15 in rural and urban markets.
more stations and more markets,”
Because of the benefits of bioethanol –
Stevens said. “Being able to put more
particularly the fact that it can sell for
gallons of environmentally friendly
about 5 cents a gallon less than other
fuel made from American-grown corn
blends of fuel – E15 has been accepted
into your car is a benefit that can’t be
by consumers across the country,
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Seeds of Change
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Increasing Yields Starts with the Planter by Brian Hefty With the global need for grain continuing to rise,
planting population of roughly 33,000 plants per acre and
increasing corn yields to meet demand is imperative.
a standard corn germination percentage of 95, why didn’t
Fortunately, there continue to be improvements with
95% of the plants come up in each row? For the plants that
planter technology that can help.
did come up, why were some of them behind the others?
For about 20 years now we’ve been talking about how corn
With modern planters there are more controls and
plants need to emerge at the same time so each plant has an
adjustments than ever before, so here are three key
equal opportunity to thrive. When plants right next to each
things we look at on our farm. First, do we have the best
other come up at the same time, we find a consistency in
technology on our planter? With recent advancements in
the height where the ear can be found on the corn plant, as
things like down-pressure controls and closing wheels, we
well as an approximately equal size of one ear compared
make at least some change almost every year.
to the next. Recently farmers like Randy Dowdy and David
Second, is every single moving part in great working
Hula have been preaching this message to farmers, as even
order every day? With a 24-row planter, this is a lot more
emergence has helped these two produce world-record
work than when we used to run an 8-row planter when I
was a kid. That’s three times as many rows, but with all
If you are a farmer, one of the ways you can see how your
the gadgets we have on the planter today, in total there are
planter is performing is by pulling the ears off 1/1000th of
probably ten times as many things to look at.
an acre in each row, then laying out the ears on a tarp just
Lastly, nothing beats checking how the planting is done
how they were pulled in the field. Here’s an example from
by digging in the soil. For us, we plant corn in dramatically
different soil types, moisture conditions, fertility levels,
We pulled 24 rows because we have a 24-row planter.
residue content, and tillage situations. That means we
We then weighed everything out to get approximate grain
need to make adjustments from field to field and day to
bushels per acre, subtracting the cobs, of course.
day. Ultimately what we’re after is consistent seed depth
The highest yield in a particular row was 230 bushels per
(around 2.25” most of the time), consistent seed spacing
acre. The lowest was 166. Since pulling all these ears takes
(an equal distance from one plant to the next in each row),
a lot of time, we didn’t replicate it throughout the field, but
and consistent seed-to-soil contact. We need to make sure
as we walked the field checking ears, we do not believe we
each seed has soil firmly pressed around it so it has the best
had quite as much inconsistency in the worst rows as what
chance to germinate quickly.
appears in this picture. Nevertheless, the key question here
Increasing yield is the goal of every corn farmer, and
the first step is making sure the planter does the best job it
Why were certain rows worse than others? With a
Corn ears from each of the 24 rows of a planter on 1/1000th of an acre from the Hefty farm 52
We have a need for speed! Automotive advice from The Under the Hood radio show We love fast cars and the thrill of an internal combustion
cleaner air, and it’s proven in a world record-holding car.
engine. Nothing beats the sound of horsepower at the track
Sometimes seeing is believing, and you can check it out
as dozens of cars roar by on their way to the finish line.
yourself on YouTube.
Even when I hear that sound on television, I love to crank it up! You don’t get that sound from an electric car.
The land speed record for a production car isn’t the only record held by an ethanol-burning monster; the marine
As a kid I fell in love with speed and the roar of the engine
speed record for a catamaran is also held by an E85-burning
when I was around 5 years old, riding on the back of my
boat, which has won the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout many
dad’s motorcycle. As the years went by, I progressed to my
times. At over 13,000 pounds with four big block Chevy
own toys that became faster and more powerful, until the
engines that produce 7,000-plus horsepower, the 51-foot
day came when the gas in the pump would no longer give
Mystic boat hits well over 200 MPH! This boat is amazing to
comfort to my several-hundred-horsepower beast of a car.
see racing across the lake in the one-mile speed box and is
That’s when I learned what racing fuel was and the cost
another great one to watch on YouTube.
that went along with it. What I would have given then for an E85 pump — affordable fuel and plenty of power!
So there you have it. Bioethanol is powerful, it is affordable, and it is clean-burning. It’s been proven how much power
There are plenty of reasons that NASCAR and many other
it can make for the many super high-performance racing
racing leagues use bioethanol in their engines. It’s powerful
engines today; imagine how we could drive if all of our
and it burns clean, plus the fact that it’s incredibly low-cost
everyday cars were running on biofuel blends! Make the
compared to other racing fuel is very appealing. You can
shift toward higher-octane, affordable biofuel blends and
also see some of the luxury car models with labels on their
watch as the power and miles per gallon go up, and the
fuel caps that say “Premium” or “E85 Fuel Only.” That’s
emissions go down.
because the engines are built to run their best on that higher-octane fuel.
The Under The Hood radio show is America’s Favorite cartalk show heard on over 250 stations and a podcast. The
So how powerful is it?
Motor Medics, Russ, Chris and Shannon, are three great friends having fun and offering a wide range of automotive
Currently there are two major speed records held using E85
advice without the aid of in-studio computers or reference
ethanol. The Tuatara holds the world’s fastest production
guides. Under The Hood can be found on a station near you,
street-legal car record and hit 331 MPH on a closed highway.
on their podcast app, or on your favorite podcast site.
It was still accelerating when the driver shut it down. At 331 mph, we’d shut it down too! Here is a quick fact about this car from the manufacturer: When run on E85 — like this one was — it’s capable of 1,750 horsepower. Running it on 91 octane gasoline decreases its horsepower to 1,350. Did you catch that? That’s right, 400 less horsepower when not run on E85. This is not the only super car company that specs E85 as the preferred fuel. Bioethanol screams more power and
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
OUT OF LEFT FIELD
The Perspective of a Turtle by Scott Johnson, Data Systems Administrator, POET
It’s a universal truth that in the animal world, ducks are
accepted good thing. There was obviously no question
the “good guys” and turtles that hunt them are the “bad
and no room for debate that good prevailed and evil was
thwarted that fateful day. Over the next days and weeks,
Let’s talk about perspective.
however, the shine began to fade from my selfless act of
One spring day, my family and I were strolling along a
dauntless valor. I felt compelled to reignite the flame of
trail next to a small pond. A mother duck and her ducklings
inspiration for my family through subtle reminders in
were swimming along the shore when one of the ducklings
quickly darted away toward deeper water, leaving one of
Wife: “We’re out of stamps.”
their siblings behind.
Me: “I wonder if that duckling I heroically rescued is out
The mother duck frantically began flapping her wings
and splashing around the lone duckling who was struggling
to swim away. The duckling appeared to have a foot stuck
Meanwhile back at the pond, a failed hunter returned to
near a large snapping turtle-shaped rock. As my brain
his turtle nest empty handed. His futile attempt at providing
slowly and insufficiently processed the situation, I threw
a meal for his family left him unbearably ashamed. He
off my shoes and socks and waded into the water to rescue
reflected on his youth, when snapping a duckling was as
the duckling in distress.
easy as taking candy from a
I grabbed a stick to pry the duckling’s seemingly wedged foot out from the rock. As I studied the situation closer, I finally realized that the snapping turtle-shaped rock was, in fact, a snapping turtle-shaped
It had snapped the foot of the duckling and was attempting to snack on the poor little quacker. I thought to myself, “Not on my watch, evil snapping turtle!” Teamed with the mother duck, still flapping back and forth, we began to beat against the turtle with sticks and wings and desperate fury. Haunting cries of squawks and quacks and shrieks filled the air, plus whatever the
An acknowledgement of another perspective is not a mandate to change our position or even to compromise. It simply allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and, while we still may not agree with them, enables us to empathize and understand their perspective.
baby (neither of which were harmed in the making of this story). Mr. Snapping Turtle perceived his turtle wife wasn’t looking at him the same adoring way she used to back in his snapping prime, despite her insistence that she found him as attractive and
before. He entered full-blown midlife crisis mode. Recklessly attempting to recapture lost vitality, he hired the pond’s most exclusive personal trainer and bought a new sports car. To fulfill his new financial commitments, he dipped into his
duck said. Finally, the turtle
fund. His turtle son henceforth
released his clenched snapper
carried with him an animosity
and the duckling scurried away to join his relieved siblings.
over not being able to attend The University of Maryland,
I was a hero! I puffed out my chest, gazed off into the
settling for a school with in-state tuition. His son claimed
distance and forcefully propped my closed fists on each
the Green Bay Packers as his new favorite team to spite his
hip, in stereotypical hero pose. I had done a universally-
father. The son moved away and now only seldom calls or
writes, and even then, typically only to his mother.
A duck doesn’t sacrifice itself simply because a snapping
All jokes aside, my point is this: sometimes we see the
turtle is hungry. But we can only start to see the situation
world so clearly. We arrogantly puff out our chest and
more clearly when we humble ourselves a bit and concede
boldly claim that our views and opinions are absolute. “I
that our point of view alone renders the story incomplete.
am right. They are wrong.” “Ducks are good. Turtles are
Sometimes all it takes is looking at things from the
bad.” “The grass is green, the sky is blue, and The Beatles
perspective of a turtle.
are overrated.” But not every situation we encounter fits into a definitive box of absolutism. Sometimes
appreciation of nuance — of perspective. Our perspective of the circumstance is just that: “ours.” And their perspective is “theirs.” Both perspectives may or may not be similar, relevant and equally valid. This ambiguity does not mean we should dampen our devotion to a cause. An acknowledgement of another perspective is not a mandate to change our position or even to compromise. It simply allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and, while we still may not agree with them, enables us to empathize and understand their perspective.
In Memory of Orris “Orrie” Swayze, Biofuel Trailblazer Bioethanol advocate Orrie Swayze, 78, of Wilmot, SD passed away on February 19 at the VA Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD. Swayze was a retired farmer and bioethanol advocacy pioneer. He worked relentlessly for many years to promote the benefits of bioethanol, beginning in the early 1980s. Swayze was the founding vice president and president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, serving eight years in those two posts. He was an early leader in the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and was instrumental in creating and defending the South Dakota ethanol producer incentive and the state ethanol gas tax exemption that allowed early plants, like POET’s facility in Scotland, SD, to produce successfully. A former Air Force fighter pilot, Swayze used his tenacity and courage in his quest to expand opportunities for biofuels. “Orrie was truly ahead of his time,” said Jeff Broin, POET Founder and CEO. “He was a visionary, and even though he had no investment in a bioethanol plant early on, he invested countless hours in driving state policy for biofuels that allowed POET to be successful in South Dakota. He was a true trailblazer with the long-term vision and undying passion needed to help us grow this industry. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for the decades he spent lobbying on behalf of biofuels. He will be greatly missed.”
THE ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
DOWN 1. Part of Nasdaq, abbr. 2. Slavishly loyal followers 3. Strainer 4. Is careful 5. Sch. groups, abbr. 6. “Lovely” Beatles girl 7. Egg-shaped 8. Conductor platforms 9. Part below a fetlock 10. Hostile to 11. Behind schedule 12. Fought 13. Boot a grounder 21. Baseball great Campanella 22. It’s the bottom line 26. Gridiron official, for short 27. Cabinet dept. 29. Blood classification system 30. Award show attendees 31. Gender 32. Fishing, perhaps
33. Bering, for one, briefly 34. Corn cake
1. Type of coach, briefly
5. Strengthen, with “up”
44. Pot material
37. Hair goo
45. Steeped beverage
38. Tel Aviv-based airline
14. LaBeouf of film
46. Bleep out
15. Popular video recorder
48. Hit the road
41. “Gloria in excelsis ___”
16. Sign at a broadcasting station
50. Breakfast cereal
42. See ya!
17. Hunt for
53. Staying power
47. Profit for short
18. Not very much
56. POET’s Mission Grow is
49. Vaccine target
19. Playful animal
working to handle this in
20. In order to change the world
many African countries
52. Nicholas and Alexander, e.g.
54. Early copters
23. Mexican currency
64. Alliance acronym
24. Water in Paris
65. Soprano’s song, maybe
56. German lady
25. Combustible heap
66. Have dinner at home
57. Feedbag morsels
28. Molten rocks
58. Focused on something
34. Prankster’s projectile
59. Fathers’ sanctuaries
36. Leg up
69. Forces out
60. Europe’s highest volcano
70. Future atty.’s hurdle
61. The bottom line, to a consumer
40. It’s used in POET’s waste
71. Maui or Molokai
62. Connecticut University
you have to be ___ ____
63. Top exec. abbr.
energy capture technology
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When the first POET plant opened over thirty years ago, it opened the door to endless world-changing possibilities. Beyond that threshold we’ve discovered a world of innovative renewable energy solutions. Biofuels, nutrient-rich proteins and oil alternatives are just the beginning.
4615 N. Lewis Ave. Sioux Falls, SD 57104
is an endless resource
At POET, we understand that when it comes to energy solutions, the earth provides everything we need, no drilling required. Right here in South Dakota, we use renewable resources to create biofuels, nutrient-rich proteins and oil alternatives. Even after three decades, brand new innovations keep sprouting.