Nipawin Biomass Ethanol advances research through SRC contract

By Matt Soberg | October 20, 2011

Saskatchewan-based Nipawin Biomass Ethanol New Generation Co-operative Ltd. has contracted with the Saskatchewan Research Council to further develop its catalytic process for cellulosic ethanol production. The technology is also being integrated into Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc.'s plans.

“Our facility will be among the first in the world to convert cellulose into ethanol and we need to ensure that the technology and conversion processes best match our feedstock,” said Lyle Larsen, Nipawin Biomass chairman of the board, when announcing the agreement.

Nipawin Biomass and SRC have developed a proprietary conversion technology producing gas from waste, and in turn, producing ethanol and other alcohols. The next phase of the research to be completed within the next year will continue to refine the catalytic process.    

“Working on this new technology with Nipawin Biomass has helped SRC gain additional expertise in catalyst development in the ethanol industry,” said Darren Anweiler, bioprocessing manager at SRC.  “We are looking forward to continue exploring this exciting process in the commercial application of ethanol production.” 

When operational, Nipawin Biomass intends to process waste timber and farm residues into ethanol.  The proposed 100 MMly (26 MMgy) ethanol plant will require approximately 200,000 dry metric tons of cellulosic material annually.

California-based Fulcrum BioEnergy is integrating the catalytic conversion process developed by SRC and Nipawin Biomass into its proprietary technology of converting municipal solid waste into ethanol.  Fulcrum’s first commercial-scale plant is projected to begin construction this year. 

While refining its technology, Nipawin Biomass will follow Fulcrum’s progress to determine the right time to begin construction on its own plant.  Larsen believes it may be another 18 months before the project is shovel-ready.