7.10.2008 | printed in the Summer 2008 issue of VITAL magazine
Simulated emergency at POET Biorefining – Macon proves a learning experience
A recent simulated emergency at POET Biorefining – Macon, Mo., proved team members are more than equipped to handle a crisis situation, as unlikely as it might be. An explosion and fire at the plant was part of a planning exercise organized by the Macon County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). Attended by more than 100 people from across the region, the event included area fire departments; rescue squads; hospitals; state, county and city law enforcement agencies; county and city government officials; and area businesses—and POET Biorefining – Macon.
The simulated emergency included a series of events at the Macon plant. As an ethanol tanker truck pulled away from the plant, the loading equipment was ripped away from the skully, the truck’s loading arm. That resulted in a fire and explosion as the truck exited the property toward the street.
“This exercise was very fruitful in that it caused all entities to see the weak spots in their plans, and has already resulted in Macon employing an automatic notification system whereby all plant managers will automatically have an emergency text message sent to their cell phones every time the plant emergency intercom is activated,” says Steve Burnett, General Manager at POET Biorefining – Macon.
POET Biorefining – Leipsic’s Mark Borer goes to Washington
The road between Ohio and Washington, D.C., may be more than 300 miles long, but for POET Biorefining – Leipsic General Manager Mark Borer, the trip was well worth it. In March, Borer—along with representatives from other Ohio ethanol and biodiesel plants—traveled to the nation’s capitol to spread the word about Ohio’s quickly growing renewable fuels industry. The trip was organized by the Buckeye Renewable Fuels Association (BRFA), a group formed in 2007 to offer legislative, educational and promotional support for Ohio’s ethanol and biodiesel producers.
Borer and the group spoke with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). The group attempted to combat the negative press surrounding ethanol, advise elected officials of the high-value co-products created during the ethanol production process, and provide data on the growing technological capabilities, production gains and efficiencies.
“We introduced BRFA as a newly formed organization, and biorefining as a significant growth industry and economic contributor in Ohio,” Borer says. “We spent considerable time informing leaders of the impact that we have on community and our direction moving forward. During my trip, I learned that we have not done a good job explaining the value of our co-products to our elected leaders.”
Employees at POET Biorefining – Corning more in the know
POET Biorefining – Corning, Iowa, is a bit more high-tech these days. In December, the plant debuted “The Know-It- All,” a message system to achieve the goal of overcommunication among employees.
The plant installed three monitors throughout the facility—there are plans to install a fourth in a break room—where daily messages are scrolled for all employees to see. Messages include daily production results compared to daily goals, the POET mission statement, birthdays and anniversaries, weather forecasts, upcoming events and general plant announcements.
“The employees love the system, as every shift gets to see all messages,” says Greg Olsen, General Manager at the Corning plant. “Prior to its installation, we relied on memos or relaying messages through shift exchanges, but ‘The Know-It-All’ ensures everyone sees every message, and they can view them at their convenience. It helps us achieve our goal of always over-communicating.”
Corning’s success has been followed by other plants, including POET Biorefining – Coon Rapids, Iowa, and POET Biorefining – Portland, Ind., with several others in talks to implement the system.
POET Biorefining – Alexandria’s effects already felt throughout community
POET Biorefining – Alexandria, Ind., which officially debuted in April, has already begun giving back to the surrounding community. POET invested more than $4 million in upgrades to Alexandria’s water system. The company installed a new well and more than four miles of pipe. In the end, the city will collect approximately $25,000 each month in water usage fees from the plant.
Even the planning of its grand opening ceremony, held April 17, involved giving back to the community. “We were able to utilize numerous local businesses in preparing for the grand opening, spending over $20,000 in the city of Alexandria,” says plant General Manager Dave Hudak.
At the grand opening, Alexandria Mayor Jack Woods spoke about the plant’s effect on the town and its residents. “When you take a tour of this place, I can only classify it as one thing: wow,” he said. “Being here today, we are witness to the future of alternative fuel. … This company is unsurpassed in quality and works closely with the Department of Energy to reduce dependency of foreign oil and global warming. In my opinion, those are two very good reasons to have POET here today.”
EPA recognizes POET Biorefining – Ashton with distinguished award
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March granted POET a 2008 ENERGY STAR CHP award for the combustion turbine-based combined heat and power (CHP) system at POET Biorefining – Ashton, Iowa.
In a letter announcing the award, the EPA’s Felicia Ruiz, Program Manager, Energy Supply & Industry, wrote, “Through the recovery of otherwise wasted heat to produce steam to support dry mill ethanol production, POET has demonstrated exceptional leadership in energy use and management.”
The letter commended the Ashton plant for its CHP system—often referred to as co-generation—that operates at approximately 69-percent efficiency and uses 16 percent less fuel than equivalent separate heat and power. “By comparison, we estimate that the CHP system effectively reduces CO2 emissions by 18,900 tons per year,” Ruiz said.
The ENERGY STAR CHP award was presented to the Ashton plant during the 2008 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo held in Nashville, Tenn., in June.
This is the second consecutive year that a POET ethanol production facility was honored by the EPA. POET Biorefining – Macon, Mo., earned the same award last year for a partnership with the Macon Municipal Utilities.
POET Biorefining – Chancellor employee brings Junior Achievement program to town
When Steve Kary came on board at POET Biorefining – Chancellor, S.D., four years ago, he was determined to give back to the community. For the previous six years, in Sioux Falls, he volunteered with the Junior Achievement program, which affects 8 million students worldwide. This partnership between the business community and educators teaches students the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, work ethics and economics.
Kary approached the superintendent of the Lennox School District upon his start at POET to bring Junior Achievement to Chancellor and nearby Worthing—both of which make up the school district. He obtained permission but needed to corral both funds and volunteers, so he turned to POET for help. “I secured the funds needed from POET and the local banks,” says Kary, now Membership Coordinator and Human Resources Manager at the Chancellor plant. “As I was raising funds for the program, I sensed there would be interest in local businesspeople to serve as volunteers.”
He recruited five local ambassadors to expand the program. During the past two years, the group has been able to raise enough money and volunteers to support 10 classrooms. Classes offered range from a third-grade section that explains how city government operates, to high school economics classes that focus on supply and demand, and free enterprise.
Kary believes the Lennox program will operate 10 classrooms once again throughout 2008. “It is very gratifying to see students outside the classroom recognize you and talk to you about the program,” he says.
Adds Rick Serie, General Manager at Chancellor, “[Our plant] has always tried to be a big part of the community. Steve approached me when he joined the team, and I thought Junior Achievement was the perfect fit for us. It’s one of the many programs we do, but one of the best.”
POET Design & Construction is currently hard at work on three POET biorefining facilities that will come online in the fourth quarter of 2008. Construction is underway and on schedule for POET Biorefining – North Manchester, Ind.; POET Biorefining – Fostoria, Ohio; and POET Biorefining – Marion, Ohio.
In March, POET Biorefining – Jewell, Iowa, received a 2007 CSX Transportation Chemical Safety Excellence Award, along with 66 other shippers. To be recognized for the award, companies had to ship at least 600 railcars during the year without any spills. Dustie Meek (pictured here, second from the right), Commodities Supervisor for the Jewell plant, accepted the award at a ceremony in Atlanta.
Safety firstSafety is a top priority at POET Biorefining – Hudson, S.D. On March 31, the plant celebrated four years without a lost-time accident, dating back to its inception in 2004. “As a group of individuals, we’ve been fortunate to have accomplished this milestone together,” says General Manager Joel Jarman. “This positive safety event could not have been possible without all past and present people at our plant working together as a team. Congratulations, team Hudson!”
Other Stories in this collection:
Renew: Summer 2008
By Michelle Bowles