Bio-oil plant to fuel Canadian sawmill

By Anna Austin
Posted June 14, 2010, at 10:13 a.m. CST

A sawmill in High Level, Alberta, Canada, plans to use its waste materials as feedstock for what could potentially become the world's largest commercial-scale fast pyrolysis plant.

Tolko Industries Ltd., a major producer and marketer of lumber, plywood and other forest products with woodland operations in several Canadian provinces, and project partner Ensyn Technologies will build and operate the facility at Tolko's High Level sawmill site. It will be capable of processing up to 400 dry tons of biomass per day into 22.5 MMgy pyrolysis oil produced through Ensyn's Rapid Thermal Processing technology.

Ensyn, which also has Envergent Technologies, a joint venture with Honeywell UOP, describes RTP as a fast thermal process whereby agricultural or woody biomass is introduced into a vessel and rapidly heated to 500 degrees Celsius (930 degrees Fahrenheit) by a tornado of hot sand, then rapidly cooled to generate about a 75 percent yield of bio-oil.

Tolko Industries Energy Supply and Systems Manager Michael Towers said High North Bioresources LP will not have to procure additional feedstocks, as the facility is being designed to exclusively use the residuals from Tolko's sawmill. Construction of the plant will enable the decommissioning of the sawmill's waste burner that is currently in operation, he said.

Presently, the sawmill purchases natural gas for all its heating and drying needs, as well as power from the grid to meet its power needs, according to Towers. "It will require some capital expense to allow the sawmill to utilize heat from pyrolysis oil, [but] the new facility will produce energy in excess of the sawmill's requirements and will send power out onto the grid," he said. According to Randy Goodfellow, Ensyn senior vice president of corporate relations , all of the pyrolysis oil will be used on-site for electricity production.

The plant will also be capable of producing a resin ingredient that can be used in the manufacture of wood panel products. Goodfellow said construction of the bio-oil plant is set for spring 2011, operations are expected to commence in the second half of 2012.
To view an interactive video of Ensyn's bio-oil production process, visit