With Thursday’s groundbreaking at POET Biorefining in Alexandria in Madison County, fuel ethanol will continue to be produced, but by early 2021 the plant will be able to add an additional distillation step, turning it into pharmaceutical-grade ethanol which can be blended into hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.
“Approximately half of it will continue to be fuel ethanol and half of it will become purified ethanol, approximately,” says Rod Pierson, Senior Vice President & General Manager for POET Design & Construction. “The fermentation process and the processing of the corn is exactly the same, it’s just that we’re taking the final ethanol and taking it to a secondary purification step to purify it to meet the pharmaceutical grade that’s needed to produce hand sanitizer.”
The Alexandria facility currently produces 80 million gallons of ethanol annually from 25-30 million bushels of corn, according to general manager Dave Hudak. He told HAT the purified alcohol addition will require more corn.
“We’re probably looking at an additional 10-12 million bushels a year,” he said. “Sixty percent of the corn that we use in this facility comes directly from Madison County.”
Indiana corn farmers were represented at the groundbreaking. Courtney Kingery, CEO of Indiana Corn Marketing Council says it is exciting to see the diversification underway at the POET plant.
“We think of corn refining as not just ethanol but really biorefining,” she said. “When you think about all the different products that can be made from corn and having that diversification, from feed to food grade sweeteners, oils, all the different products, and with POET here being able to diversify into that highly purified, highly refined alcohol, it goes into a totally new market with the health care and personal care market.”
The clean, green hand sanitizer ingredient will be produced at two POET locations once Alexandria is online. The company says purified ethanol has been used in hand sanitizers and disinfectants for years before this very eventful 2020. The POET product is available at local retail stores and online at www.sanitizerbypoet.com.