Canadian cellulosic ethanol projects progressing

By Bryan Sims
In March, Montreal, Quebec-based Enerkem Inc. announced that it will enter the U.S. ethanol market when it chose Pontotoc, Miss., as the site for its proposed 75.7 MMly (20 MMgy) cellulosic ethanol plant.

The $250 million project will be co-located at the Three Rivers Landfill and will recycle and convert approximately 60 percent, or 189,000 tons, of municipal solid waste (MSW) per year into fuel-grade ethanol. Enerkem has secured a feedstock supply agreement with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi to supply its MSW. In addition to MSW, the plant will use wood residue from regional forest and agricultural operations. The company uses a thermochemical gasification and catalytic synthesis technology pathway, which has been refined and tested at the company's pilot-scale facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec, since 2003.

A groundbreaking date for the project hasn't been determined, however, it's likely to happen sometime in 2010, according to Marie-Hélène Labrie, vice president of government affairs and communications for Enerkem. "We are still developing the project, and are negotiating the final binding agreements with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority for the MSW feedstock," she said.

Meanwhile, British Columbia-based Lignol Energy Corp. received a $1.82 million grant in March from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a nonprofit foundation established by the Canadian government in 2001, focused on financing the development of renewable technologies. In addition to this funding, SDTC previously contributed $4.42 million to Lignol for a total of $6.24 million.

According to Ross MacLachlan, Lignol president and chief executive officer, the additional funding from SDTC will allow the company to enhance the functionality of its industrial pilot plant in Burnaby, British Columbia, in addition to covering short-term operational costs this year.

"This funding has enabled us to extend this phase of operations well into the first half of 2009 with an expanded scope of our project, together with enhancements for enzyme utilization and process improvements," he said.

Enerkem's gasification, sequential gas conditioning and catalysis technology converts sorted municipal solid waste and forest and agricultural residues into second-generation fuels and green chemicals. The company's pilot plant in Sherbrooke, Quebec, has been operating since 2003. Its first commercial-scale ethanol plant in Westbury, Quebec, is "entering start-up phase," Enerkem said. Construction of a third plant in Edmonton, Alberta, has also been scheduled.