Edmonton’s garbage-to-fuel plant should finally start commercial ethanol production this summer, a company official said Wednesday.
Enerkem Inc.’s facility at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre in Clover Bar, which started construction in 2012, will convert dirty pizza boxes and other non-recyclable trash into ethanol that refineries can add to gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The product was recently given the lowest carbon intensity value yet issued by the B.C. government, meaning it can now be sold in that province’s gas, as well as in Alberta, said Marie-Hélène Labrie, Enerkem’s senior vice-president for government affairs and communications.
“We’re now getting ready for ethanol production and we expect to begin offering ethanol to our customers in the summer,” she said, adding the company is seeking to meet similar low-carbon fuel standards in such jurisdictions as California and Oregon.
“Right now, there’s little local (Alberta) production, which means some refineries have to import ethanol from other areas.”
The plant started making methanol in 2016, but last week completed installing equipment to convert the methanol into higher-priced ethanol, she said.
This year’s ethanol output will be several million litres, ramping up to full production of about 40 million litres annually in 2018, she said.
That’s enough to meet 10 per cent of the demand in Alberta, where gasoline must include at least five per cent renewable fuel.
The plant will annually use 100,000 tonnes of dried trash that would otherwise go in the ground, taking the city from diverting roughly half its garbage from the landfill to approximately 70 per cent.
The project has been in development for more than a decade. In 2006, the city approved an agreement through Alberta Innovates that included a $20-million construction grant for Enerkem and $9 million for the city to develop a pilot facility using gasification technology.
The province gave the Montreal-based company an additional $9.6-million grant in 2015 to produce ethanol.
Labrie said the plant, built on land leased from the city, is the world’s first full-scale facility of this type — ethanol is usually made with corn — and developing the new process takes time.
The company hopes to start constructing a similar plant on the south shore of Montreal next year, and also plans to put up a facility twice as big with partners in Rotterdam, using modules built in Canada.
“Enerkem has been successful by taking a very rigorous approach, by scaling up the technology, and by implementing it as we did … It’s not an overnight thing.”