Enerkem’s plant outside Montreal, Quebec is now mechanically complete and ready to enter the start-up phase of biofuel production. At capacity, 1.3 million gallons of biofuels will be generated annually. The company has not disclosed the price of the ethanol but says it is cheaper than the corn-based ethanol currently on the market.
Waste wood from used electricity poles will be the negative-cost feedstock used. One metric ton is required to produce 95 gallons of ethanol. Compared to other feedstock, wood does not have a high energy density.
Enerkem has developed a proprietary gasification process that allows biofuels to be produced from non-homogeneous materials. It is important however to ensure that contaminants such as arsenic are not present, which is a challenge when using such feedstock.
“If you have a piece of paper in one end of the reactor, it will crack as well as a piece of plastic at the other end because the reactor dissipates heat in a uniform manner,” CEO Vincent Chornet said. “It allows the syngas to be produced from feedstock, despite that lack of homogeneity.”
There are sufficient quantities of electric poles as feedstock for the facility, but there are plans to expand the plant. If this is done, the second production line would use a different feedstock. Demand will dictate when the plant is expanded. In the meantime, this plant is making history.
Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.