December 21, 2009
by Noelle Stapinsky, Features Editor
The folks in a Strathcona County neighbourhood near Edmonton will be getting some of their energy from garbage and biomass detritus from farms and forests thanks to a Montreal-based green chemicals technology company that’s setting up an ambitious renewable energy operation in the heart of oil and natural gas country.
Enerkem’s gasification, sequential gas conditioning and catalysis technology uses sorted municipal solid waste, forest biomass and agricultural residues as feedstock. The residual heat and synthetic gas generated by the soon-to-be-built Enerkem GreenField Alberta Biofuels plant in Edmonton will provide the citizens and institutions residing in the Emerald Hills area of the county an alternative to the heating and cooling energy that’s currently fuelled by natural gas. The project will get $7.45 million from the province’s Clean Air and Climate Change Technology and Innovation Program under Alberta’s share of the Canada ecoTrust for Clean Air and Climate Change. When the new energy is online in 2012, Enerkem says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 7,000 tonnes per year.
Alberta offers fertile ground for technology that will help lower the province’s carbon footprint. Statistics from Natural Resources Canada predict greenhouse gas emissions will have increased by 67 megatons from 1990 to 2010 putting Alberta 40% over the 1990 Kyoto benchmark; and the province’s rapid economic growth energized by oil sands development and production, could drive that level up to 64% by 2020.
Enerkem’s efforts in the province will include research on the conversion of various types of industrial and municipal waste into green transportation fuels and chemicals. In September the company, Edmonton and the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI), turned the sod on $10-million advanced research facility with a fully equipped pilot plant adjacent to the production operation, a partnership with Greenfield, one of Canada’s largest ethanol producers.
The $70-million plant is to be finished by late 2010 and operated by Greenfield. At full initial capacity, it will produce 36 million litres of ethanol per year and reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint by more than 6 million tonnes over the next 25 years, which is equivalent to taking 12,000 cars off the road per year.