POET plans to decrease water use in the production of ethanol by 22% over the next five years in the first goal of its sustainability initiative, Ingreenuity. If successful, it will cut the company’s water used per gallon of ethanol from an average of 3 gal. to 2.33 gal., an annual water savings of 1 billion gallons.

In a presentation to employees, POET CEO Jeff Broin said the company is committed to producing ethanol as sustainably as possible and minimizing its impact on natural resources. "Fresh water is a precious natural resource that we do our utmost to conserve," Broin said. "We have seen tremendous efficiency gains in the 22 years I’ve been in this business, but we can and will continue to do better."

The reductions will come primarily through installing a proprietary process developed by POET engineers that recycles cooling water rather than discharging it. The Total Water Recovery process has recently been installed in three POET Biorefining locations: Bingham Lake, MN; Caro, MI; and Hudson, SD. Those facilities now average 2-2.5 gal. of water/gallon of ethanol.

To kick off the initiative, Broin announced that the POET Foundation has committed more than $420,000 to the non-profit Global Health Ministries (GHM) over the same five-year period as POET’s water reduction goal. A portion of the funds will help GHM repair, construct and maintain 90 wells in Nigeria that that will give more than 300,000 people access to pure water.

POET will also look at water use beyond the company’s facilities. Producers of the feedstock delivered to its 26 production facilities will be surveyed to determine how much is irrigated. Additionally, POET is looking to make its new Total Water Recovery process available to other ethanol producers.

In 2009, POET plants used an average of 3 gal. of water/gallon of ethanol, which is an 80% decrease from when the company first produced ethanol in 1988. That average includes the alternative sources of water used at several POET plants. At POET Biorefining – Corning, IA, most of the water used for cooling comes from the Corning Waste Water Treatment Plant. One hundred percent of the water at POET Biorefining – Portland, IN, is recycled from a nearby quarry. POET Biorefining – Big Stone, SD, gets 80% of its water from the cooling ponds of an adjacent power plant and discharges it back to the power plant.

Water reduction is the first goal of Ingreenuity, POET’s new initiative to improve the environmental performance of ethanol. The company is developing goals in other areas, including greenhouse gas reductions and the development of bio-based products. The final goals and progress reports will be available at http://www.ingreenuity.com.