Waste to biofuels plant opens in Edmonton

June 9, 2014 0 By Amanda Giasson

The first ever garbage to biofuels facility comes online in Canada.

Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton, is home to the first municipal waste to biofuels facility in the world, which is located in the Edmonton Waste Management Centre where the industrial plant will convert garbage – that would typically be sent to landfills – into chemicals and biofuels.

The innovative facility was born from the collaboration of three parties.

Edmonton, Calgary and Enerkem, a private company that operates the plant, teamed up to bring the city’s Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility to life. Vincent Chornet, the CEO of Enerkem commented on the project saying “The world is watching what we are doing here in Edmonton.” Jim Schubert, the City of Edmonton’s acting director of business planning and central operations added that “It’s a game changer … It’s our ‘Back-To-The-Future’ project.”

The technology used to create the facility took ten years to develop. How the plant works is it breaks down trash using heat and transforms the waste into clean gas, similar to natural gas. This gas is then converted into liquid methanol. This entire process occurs in 3 minutes, according to Chornet.

Currently, 60% of the city’s waste is diverted from landfills due to compost and recycling efforts. However, with the facility in operation, this percentage is expected to grow to 90% by 2016. “We think 90 per cent of our trash will now go to some higher purpose,” said Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson.

100,000 tons of trash will be supplied to the waste to biofuels plant, annually.

The cost of this effort is about equal to what the city presently pays for waste disposal. Schubert said that Edmonton is paying roughly “70 dollars a tonne to transport and landfill our material at an outside landfill.” He explained that when the biofuels plant is fully operational, the cost to run it will be about $75 a ton. Thus, for just about the same cost, the city will be converting wasted material into something beneficial for the city.

While, at first, the waste to biofuels facility will only produce methanol, it will eventually produce ethanol, as well. When it reaches its full capacity, it is expected that every year the plant will generate 38 million liters of biochemicals and fuels.