2013 Finalist: Outstanding Achievement in Environmental Technology And Innovation sponsored by Agrium Inc.
Biofuel Company Turns Trash Into Treasure
A Montreal-based company has turned its sights to Alberta where it is finding the will and the resources to turn municipal solid waste into clean energy.
With its proprietary thermochemical technology, Enerkem is transforming non recyclable waste that would otherwise go to landfill into second-generation biofuels and green chemicals. By doing so the company addresses the challenges of oil dependence and waste disposal.
Leading by Example
“The Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility is the world’s first commercial facility that is capable of turning garbage into valuable products such as biofuels and chemicals,” says Mr. Vincent Chornet, President and CEO of Enerkem. “This is a totally revolutionary technology that will produce on a commercial scale. We hope that our waste-to-biofuels facility in Edmonton will become a model for other municipalities around the world.”
Enerkem has validated its technology over 10 years using solid waste from numerous municipalities and other types of feedstock. The company’s process and business model are designed to profitably produce cellulosic ethanol from a large municipal solid waste supply. Its technology and intellectual property are covered by patents and pending patent applications in various jurisdictions.
The Edmonton facility will begin operations in the autumn of 2013. It is the first collaboration between a waste-to-biofuels producer and a metropolitan centre to address its waste disposal challenge. Edmonton currently diverts 60 per cent of its waste and is the world’s leader in waste management. The City has a goal of increasing waste diverted from the landfill to 90 per cent.
To do so, in 2009 the City signed a 25-year agreement to provide Enerkem with 100,000 dry, prepared and sorted metric tons of municipal solid waste per year. Enerkem committed to take the feedstock and to build and operate a waste-to-biofuels facility in Edmonton.
“We are very excited to be pioneers, changing the way things are done to make the world a better place,” Mr. Chornet says. “The 27 people we hired in Edmonton were inspired by the green aspect of our endeavour.”
Enerkem is able to convert abundantly available municipal solid waste (mixed textiles, plastics, fibers, wood and other non- recyclable waste materials) into chemical-grade syngas; and then into methanol, ethanol and other chemical intermediates that form everyday products.
In addition to reducing landfilling, using municipal solid waste as feedstock for the production of biofuels does not compete with food supply, does not have land use impact and is already being collected by the waste management industry.
Enerkem modular, scalable systems can be manufactured by third parties, which allows the company to rapidly and efficiently capture opportunities, reduce capital costs and manufacture multiple facilities simultaneously. For local communities, it means new jobs, a sustainable alternative to landfill, and clean transportation fuels produced domestically.
“With our revolutionary approach to waste management, we are transforming the way people manage their waste in the future and we are also transforming the transportation industry by making a cleaner fuel,” says Mr. Chornet. “We are showing what we are doing in Edmonton as a model for other municipalities around the globe to follow.”