A Canadian company turns our garbage into biofuels

Garbage Sea

Clean fuels and green chemicals from waste with better economics and greater sustainability than other technologies relying on fossil sources. This is the business of Enerkem, a Canadian company whose disruptive technology converts non-recyclable municipal solid waste (i.e. garbage) into new renewable products.

Enerkem Alberta Biofuels is the world’s first commercial biorefinery to use municipal solid waste to produce methanol and ethanol. This facility is the result of more than 10 years of efforts to scale up Enerkem’s technology from pilot and demonstration, to full commercial scale.

Enerkem’s biorefinery process enables the use of municipal solid waste and other waste residues as unconventional and low-cost feedstocks for the production of biofuels and renewable chemicals. A real revolution!

Enerkem’s technolgy is deployed through an exclusive process that converts non-recyclable waste into a pure synthesis gas (or syngas). This syngas is then converted into biofuels and other widely used chemicals using catalysts. “In less than 5 minutes – the company headquartered in Montreal claims – waste destined to landfill becomes clean transportation fuels or renewable chemicals, which can then be used to form other value-added products. The Enerkem technology is therefore feedstock flexible and multiproduct”.

In Europe, Enerkem partners with AkzoNobel, a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals, to develop a project partnership to explore the development of waste-to-chemicals facilities in Europe.

“Enerkem’s global expansion follows the launch of our waste-to-biofuels and chemicals full-scale commercial facility in Edmonton, which sent a strong signal that our technology is ready to be deployed around the world”, said Vincent Chornet, President and CEO of Enerkem. “We are pleased to work with AkzoNobel to develop new facilities and products in Europe.  With our lower-cost alternative to incineration and landfilling, we help chemical producers offer more sustainable products derived from waste and renewable sources rather than petroleum and we contribute to the transition to a circular economy.”

“By making synthesis gas from waste, we will have a sustainable and cost-effective feedstock for the chemical industry which would be fully in line with our Planet Possible approach to sustainable manufacturing”, explained Peter Nieuwenhuizen, AkzoNobel’s Director of Innovation and Partnerships.

In this project partnership, Enerkem licenses its exclusive breakthrough technology to convert municipal and other waste feedstocks into chemicals.

In the U.S. Enerkem partners with St. Paul, Minnesota-based garbage processing and recycling company SKB Environmental on a proposal to build a US$200 million refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, which would process garbage into ethanol fuel.

The Rosemount plant would employ about 100 people, and is still only in the planning stages, with City Council currently studying a report concerning details such as traffic, traffic impact, noise, zoning and land use. Enerkem’s plant can process solid waste, including construction waste, with the Rosemount facility projected to produce 100 gallons of ethanol for every tonne of solid waste fed into it, with a capacity of up to 93 garbage trucks arriving daily from Dakota County and other nearby municipalities. The Rosemount plant is being designed to process approximately 400,000 tonnes of waste per year, with Enerkem projecting a start date on construction in the third quarter of 2018.

In China the company led by Vincent Chornet partners with Qingdao City Construction Investment Group Co. Ltd. to develop a project partnership to jointly build another municipal solid waste-to-biofuels facility in Qingdao.

The agreement was signed by Mr. Luzheng Xing, Director General, Qingdao City Construction Investment Group, and Mr. Vincent Chornet, President and CEO of Enerkem.

“We are proud to combine forces with our esteemed partner in Qingdao to address local waste challenges and transform garbage into clean transportation fuels”, said Vincent Chornet, President and CEO of Enerkem. “Our modular waste-to-biofuels facilities can be replicated in any community as a competitive and sustainable alternative to incineration or landfilling. We are thrilled to export this game-changing technology to China”.

In this new project partnership, Enerkem will license its exclusive technology to convert local urban waste from China into biofuels and chemicals. The final business structure and sites are under discussions.


by Giorgio Zani


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