FOSTORIA - POET Biorefining-Fostoria is ready to begin capturing carbon dioxide from its waste stream and processing it into a usable form for other industries.
"As a part of our process we generate a certain amount of carbon dioxide," said Plant Manager Art Thomas. "We put in a process that will recover a portion of the carbon dioxide, and we end up with liquefied CO2."
The new product is used to carbonate beverages, can be compressed into blocks as dry ice and is used by other industries in several ways, he said.
The Fostoria and Marion POET plants are to be selling the product through the Greater Ohio Valley liquid carbon dioxide marketplace.
"One of our priorities at POET is to get the most value from the corn kernel," Cliff Brannon, general manager of the Marion facility, said in a news release. "We don't just produce biofuel here. We produce Dakota Gold high-protein animal feed, Voila corn oil and more. We're excited to add carbon dioxide to that list."
Before the capture system was put in place, Thomas said the carbon dioxide was released into the air with the water vapor that can be seen steaming from the plant every day.
"So we're recovering that," he said.
While liquefied CO2 is the latest product to be offered by POET, Thomas said the plant began extracting corn oil from distiller dry grains in December 2012.
"A year ago in December, we completed and started up a corn oil system," he said. "Basically, we're taking corn and fermenting it. As part of the process, we generate ethanol and DDGs. And from the DDGs we extract corn oil."
DDG is a high-protein animal feed.
"This allows the farmer to, depending on the animals, adjust the amount of oil in DDGs to optimize production," he said.
The Fostoria plant began to produce ethanol Sept. 30, 2008.
"We just celebrated our fifth anniversary last fall," he said. "We're focused on where we're at today and where we're going forward."
He said last year was a rough time financially when corn prices were in the range of $7 per bushel. But he said part of POET's proprietary production process make it's process a bit more cost-effective than other plants.
"This year, prices are down, so from that perspective, we're moving forward and things are looking good," he said. "Last year wasn't optimal."
Thomas said local people sometimes don't realize the impact the plant has on the local economy when POET buys 24 million bushels of corn annually, and 99 percent of it is grown within 35 miles of the plant.
"We take in around 70,000 bushel of corn per day," he said. "That's 365 days a year. We have to have 70 trucks cross our scales every day just to keep running.
"Look at the amount of money we've pumped back into the local economy," he said. "That's huge."
In addition, he said the plant employs 43 people at good-paying jobs.
"When you look at the economic impact we provide, it's fairly significant," he said.
Although Thomas said he wasn't at liberty to reveal specific statistics from the local plant, he said the plant produces more than 65 million gallons of ethanol each year as well as about 200,000 bushels of DDGs along with corn oil and now carbon dioxide.
Statewide, he said there are seven ethanol plants that produce 523 million gallons of ethanol and 1.5 million bushels of DDGs.
He said 3,400 Ohio farmers supply the ethanol industry, which employs 300 people with an annual payroll of $11 million. In addition, it supports 13,000 more direct and indirect jobs, and has added $2.6 billion to the state's infrastructure since 2008.
Although he said some plants have been "put in moth balls" for a while due to high production costs, those plants could be put back online if ethanol usage in gasoline was raised from 10 percent to 15 percent.