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Canadian Company Turns Garbage Into Fuel

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday June 3rd, 2011 | 1 Comment

ban-startup-friday The Montreal-based company, Enerkem bills itself as a “leading waste to biofuels and chemicals company” that “manufactures, owns and operates community-based advanced biorefineries.” Big talk from a company I’ve never heard of until today. However, Enerkem lives up to the hype. The company, founded in 2000, converts waste like non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW) into transportation fuels, chemicals and green power. Enerkem also has big investors: Valero invested for the first time in the company, and Waste Management recently increased its investment.

Enerkem operates a plant in Canada, a pilot facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec, a commercial-scale plant in Westbury, Quebec, and another plant in Pontotoc, Mississippi. The Sherbrooke plant has been in operation since 2009. Electricity poles are used as feedstock to produce syngas, methanol, acetates and ethanol. The plant has a production capacity of 1.3 million gallons a year. The company’s website calls the plant the “world’s first ethanol plant to use negative-cost and unconventional materials – treated wood from used electricity poles.”

The Edmonton plant is scheduled to be commissioned in 2012. The feedstock used to produce methanol and ethanol will be post-sorted Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), and it will have a capacity of 10 million gallons a year. Enerkem signed a 25-year agreement with the City of Edmonton to build and operate the plant, the first agreement in the world between a city and a biofuel producer to create ethanol from municipal solid waste. The City of Edmonton will supply the plant with a minimum of 100,000 tons of MSW a year. The plant was selected to receive $3.35 million from Alberta Energy and also received a $23 million grant from the Alberta government.

The Pontotoc, Mississippi facility, scheduled to be commissioned in 2013, will produce ethanol from sorted MSW and wood residues. It will produce 10 million gallons a year of ethanol. Enerkem signed an agreement with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi (TRSWMA) for 190,000 tons of unsorted municipal solid waste (MSW) per year. The plant was selected to receive up to $50 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, and an $80 million loan guarantee by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Enerkem has received attention for its groundbreaking plants. Fast Company Magazine named Enerkem one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2011. Biofuels Digest named it one of the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy for two years in a row. Enerkem was also named a 2010 Global Cleantech 100 Comopany by the Cleantech Group and The Guardian.


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  • Paige Donnelly

    Maryland-based Fiberight does the same thing– they are starting construction on their commercial plant this summer.