LEIPSIC — A dozen or so Putnam County residents toured POET Biorefining plant Thursday through the Hard Hat Tour program sponsored by the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce.
POET Biorefining is an ethanol processing plant. The plant takes locally grown corn and sends it through a process which breaks it down and turns it into ethanol fuel.
Before the tour began Ken Miceli, general manager of the Leipsic plant, gave a power point presentation on what ethanol is and its importance to the future of America.
“One thing you’ll find is we don’t have a problem being passionate about what we do here at POET,” he said, beginning the presentation.
POET has 28 plants in the United States, three of those are in Ohio, Miceli said. They employ 1,800 in those 28 plants. The Leipsic employs 47 people, he said, adding that doesn’t include the 600 local farmers, within 50 miles of the plant, who produce corn for the ethanol creation process.
Each POET plant generates an average of $200 million for the local economy each year and a total of $6 billion in annual revenue a year.
Ethanol is added to gasoline to cut back on the toxic chemicals the fossil fuel creates when burned, Miceli said. During the presentation, the attendees were shown a video of what waste left behind when certain mixtures of fossil fuels and ethanol. Flammable material was soaked in different mixture solutions and burned within a glass bottle, which collected toxins after combustion. The demonstration showed a combination of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline burned cleaner than combinations of gas/oil and jet fuel.
Between 60 and 70 percent of a kernel of corn is starch, which is used to create ethanol, said Aaron Rollins, operations manager and one of the two tour guides. At the POET plant, this happens at the hammer mills. At this deafening section of the plant, the mills crush the corn and separates the starch from the protein in the corn. What’s left after the starch is removed is used to create feed corn, which local farmers can collect and utilize.
The starch is then broken down by enzymes into sugar, which is fed into one of the plant’s six fermentation vats. After being fermented for about 70-80 hours, Rollins said. After that process finishes, the fluid is then transferred into the distillation tanks.
The Leipsic POET plants creates 230,000 gallons of ethanol a day. It takes 2.76 gallons of water to create one gallon of ethanol, which includes the steam used for power and the water used for coolant during fermentation and distillation, said Rollins.
The plant generates its own power through recycled steam, he said. Two boilers in the plants utility room generate steam which goes into a steam turbine, which itself generates about 1/3 of the energy needed to run the plant. The steam and heat generated by the turbine is used as power and the condensation created from the steam is collected and recycled into steam, which goes through the entire process again, he said.
“I want to save this country from its dependence on fossil fuels,” Miceli said. “It’s a struggle between David and Goliath.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362