Sustainability is not a new word for POET. In every aspect of what we do, POET strives to find a better, cleaner, more innovative way to produce our suite of plant-based, Earth-friendly bioproducts. POET encourages team members to bring ideas forward to help continuously improve our production processes, and our team has capacity to update our facilities as new ideas come forward. Here is a look at a few of the numerous ways POET strives to be a leader in sustainability.
Recently, POET partnered with Cytiva, a global life sciences leader, to launch a sustainability program focused around recycling lab materials. Cytiva, working with TerraCycle to create this initiative, will recycle the plastic filters used by POET to prepare fermentation samples. Five POET plants are assisting in beta testing of this program.
The plastic filters insert into syringes (without needles) and are used in testing various bioethanol fermentation samples. One filter is used per sample and each POET bioprocessing facility conducts hundreds of samples each week. Prior to Cytiva’s initiative, the plastic filters could not be recycled because of the nonhazardous biomass trapped inside. This program developed by Cytiva and Terracycle allows these filters to be recycled, reducing the amount of plastic waste created.
“Sustainability is an important business imperative for Cytiva, and we believe this program will inspire others in the life sciences industry to follow suite,” said Dan McElroy, Product Manager at Cytiva.
POET Biorefining – Caro is one of five plants that participated in a trial run of the program. Nicholas Bauerschmidt, a Quality Manager at the Caro bioprocessing facility, oversaw the trial run of the program and gave feedback for its improvement.
“Sustainable practices, like recycling, are really important at all of POET’s facilities,” said Bauerschmidt. “Because of the unique nature of our filters, we’ve been unable to recycle them in the past. We’re grateful for Cytiva’s program that allows us to further decrease our environmental footprint and repurpose a product that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. It goes to the heart of our mission to be good stewards
of the environment.”
POET strives to continually develop new ways to increase sustainability at all bioprocessing facilities. Team members, like Bauerschmidt, are encouraged to find new, innovative ways to make processes and projects streamlined and as efficient as possible.
In 2017, POET installed its first steam-powered turbine at POET Bioprocessing — Portland. Similar to many other POET ventures, the concept of steam-powered turbines stemmed from a team member and was designed and constructed by POET engineers. This particular endeavor was just one more step in POET’s mission towards sustainability and becoming more self-sufficient.
For Ty Schoellerman, POET Process Engineer II, the rewards of the turbines are more than just short-term.
“The immediate benefits include the increased efficiency and electrical savings. But the longer we utilize this technology, the more benefits expound. Long-term use of the steam turbines reduces our facilities’ dependence on electricity and improves plant efficiency which expands into bioethanol markets by reducing POET’s carbon intensity score.”
To date, 16 turbines have been installed in 15 of POET’s bioprocessing facilities. The turbines are designed to capture excess steam and convert it into electricity to help power the plant. The steam then exits the turbines and is used in the creation process of bioethanol. The turbines reduce the electricity consumed by the plant, allow the plant to reuse its own energy more efficiently, reduce emissions and cut down POET’s carbon footprint.
“The turbines help with overall plant efficiency by utilizing more of the steam energy for our facilities,” said Schoellerman.
Each steam turbine powers a generator which produces an average of three megawatts of electricity per facility, totaling 50 megawatts per year, which is enough electricity to power around 2,000 homes.
Total Water Recovery
Another of POET’s sustainability initiatives includes Total Water Recovery (TWR). This patented process continuously filters, treats and recycles water used in the bioethanol production process. This internal water recycling program essentially eliminates liquid discharge from POET’s network of bioprocessing facilities with the TWR system; the only exceptions being steam and any water present in the bioproducts produced in the facility.
When Joseph Fuhr, POET Process Engineer I, talks about TWR, the benefits of the program are undeniable.
“Both the short-term and long-term benefits blend into one in my opinion. We are lowering our water consumption on a large scale across the fleet, as well as reducing the amount of discharge treatment required by community systems.”
Twenty POET bioprocessing facilities have installed TWR since it was first implemented at POET Bioprocessing – Hudson in 2010. TWR reduces water use and waste water discharge used for the production of bioethanol and bioproducts within the plants.
“Total Water Recovery is another excellent example of how POET never stops innovating and using the most out of what we have available to us,” said Fuhr. “By reducing our water consumption across the fleet, we are taking fewer renewable resources from the Earth.
As a result of the water recycling initiative, POET facilities have reduced their water consumption by approximately 33 percent.
An Example of Responsibility and Innovation
For over thirty years, POET has continuously researched and implemented creative, cost-effective sustainability initiatives. POET strives to utilize every bushel of corn to its fullest potential. From the starch used to produce bioethanol, to corn oil in asphalt rejuvenators, to protein and fiber in animal feeds, nothing goes to waste.
POET leads an already green-focused industry into the future of sustainability. Combating climate change is the mission of every person who calls our planet home, and POET is proud to set an example of responsibility and innovation, both in the bioproducts produced as well as the processes and facilities used to produce them.