Through its new IngreenuityTM initiative, POET will celebrate and promote its achievements in sustainability — and create even greater green goals for the future.
What do you get when you combine creativity and innovation with a strong company-wide desire to reduce its environmental footprint on the planet? In POET’s case, you get “Ingreenuity,” a new initiative to advance the sustainability of biorefining.
Through Ingreenuity – a play off “ingenuity” and “green” — POET will promote its advances and achievements in creating a more sustainable biofuels production process, says Greg Breukelman, Vice President of Communications for POET. The initiative also sets tangible, measurable goals for the company regarding its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions moving forward.
“The team at POET has already demonstrated incredible creativity and innovation from an ethanol sustainability standpoint, from our BPXTM process to using alternative energy sources to the development of cellulosic ethanol,” he says. “The Ingreenuity initiative is not for a lack of performance in the past; it will celebrate our advancements and help launch even more innovation, ingenuity and creativity in the future.”
THE NEED TO EDUCATE
Those closest to the ethanol industry have long recognized its efforts to be an eco-friendly source of energy. But as the industry has continued to grow and take away market share, Breukelman says, ethanol opponents have worked to conceal those efforts.
“We’ve become a much greater threat to the status quo,” he says. “There is a lot of misinformation on the environmental front. The fact of the matter is the ethanol we produce is significantly cleaner and greener than fossil fuel alternatives.”
Ingreenuity will encompass all of POET’s green achievements through a cohesive effort to educate and spark interest both internally and externally.
“Just like anything else, you can gather more momentum and focus by branding things and giving them a name,” Breukelman says. “It makes it easier to explain to the outside world, and it’s something people can latch on to internally.”
Accomplishments to fall under Ingreenuity include POET’s BPX process that converts starch to sugar without heat; cogeneration, the simultaneous production of heat and electricity from a single power source at three POET plants, and the use of a solid waste fuel boiler in place of natural gas at another plant. Other achievements include the development of cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs; the use of an anaerobic digester and methane gas to power ethanol production facilities; the reduction and reuse of water in the production process, and developing renewable coproducts that can replace those made by petroleum.
A major focus of the Ingreenuity initiative will involve working with agriculture, since a large portion of the ethanol GHG equation relates to agricultural practices. As agricultural practices continue to advance, it’s necessary that farmers commit to going green.
“If you look at the entire lifecycle analysis of ethanol, there are three buckets: The first is the agriculture piece, the second is ethanol production and the third is when it goes into the vehicle,” Breukelman says. “POET has a lot of control over one of those buckets, and is communicating the importance of continued advancements of the other two.”
The Ingreenuity initiative will communicate to farmers, policymakers, media and the public alike that the ethanol industry “is already green and clean, and it’s going to be greener and cleaner in the future,” Breukelman says. “It’s something at POET that we’re working very hard on.”
But Ingreenuity isn’t simply about celebrating and educating the public on POET’s achievements in sustainability. Through the initiative, POET will work toward the future of energy, as well.
“Our goal has always been to be the most efficient producer of ethanol,” says Nathan Schock, Public Relations Director at POET.
A primary focus is to further reduce GHG emissions in the ethanol production process, whether by promoting more sustainable agriculture practices such as low till and no till, by ethanol yield improvements, or by utilizing alternative energy sources to power plants.
“All these things will help us reduce our GHG emissions compared to gasoline,” Breukelman says.
A second chief focus is to develop new products from renewable materials instead of petroleum. Those products may include biochemicals, polymers, plastics or specialty proteins — all items that historically have been created from fossil fuels.
“Ethanol is already good, but what’s exciting is the opportunity for improvement,” Breukelman says. “Our goal is to use our creativity to create a more environmentally sustainable ethanol business.”
At the most basic level, sustainability involves leaving the environment better than you found it. POET Biorefining – Alexandria, Ind., is taking that challenge seriously. The plant recently completed the first stages of a five-year mitigated wetland program, says Dave Hudak, Alexandria General Manager.
The program was developed to compensate for the wetlands that were impacted by the construction of the Alexandria facility, says Iona J. Branscum, Environmental Engineer with POET Design & Construction. The mitigation area involves 9 1/2 acres of higher-quality wetlands than the wetlands being replaced, as well as 360 linear feet of a created stream. Native grasses and wildflowers have been planted around the wetlands, as well.
Creating and maintaining the wetlands is a true team effort.
“This wetland is built on our property and monitored weekly by plant personnel and periodically by a consultant from AECOM [an environmental consulting firm],” Hudak says.
POET staff members track the progress of young plants and monitor water levels, while AECOM consultants complete more thorough reviews to determine if invasive species must be controlled or replanting is required.
Both the plant and the environment will soon see the benefits of the wetlands, including improved storm water quality, decreased storm water runoff and increased wildlife habitat, Branscum says.
“Within three to five years, it is anticipated the wetland will be successfully established and providing more environmental benefits than the wetlands that were replaced,” she says.