Engineering to begin on Greenfield, Enerkem MSW-to-ethanol plant

By Kris Bevill | February 16, 2012

Greenfield Ethanol Inc. has teamed with Enerkem Inc. to establish a 10 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility at the site of Greenfield’s existing 120 million liter per year (about 31 MMgy) corn ethanol plant in Varennes, Quèbec, partially because the company envisions a future ethanol industry that relies very much on integrated production, according to Greenfield President and CEO Robert Gallant. “We believe firmly in the concept of the biorefinery,” he said. “Therefore, we have made our Varennes facility a candidate for that. It can act as a hub for new technologies to be bolted on to produce ethanol, for example. And Enerkem is an example of that.”

Gallant said engineering work for the sorted municipal solid waste-to-ethanol facility will begin in the second quarter of this year. A groundbreaking is planned for early 2013, with production anticipated to begin sometime in 2014. Early estimates place the total project costs at around $90 million, he said. The Government of Quèbec recently offered to contribute a total of $27 million to the project, citing several benefits that the project offers for the province’s citizens, including reducing the amount of waste that enters landfills and providing cleaner air through reduced greenhouse gas emissions. “In addition to presenting a solution to landfilling, today’s announcement will enable greenhouse gas emission reductions by about 110,000 metric tons of CO2 per year,” Minister Clément Gignac said in a Feb. 6 news release. “Cellulosic ethanol is a renewable fuel that will contribute to reducing our dependence on petroleum products. By supporting this project, our government is concretely reinforcing energy security for Quèbec.”

Enerkem is currently constructing a 10 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility in Edmonton, Alberta, which is expected to begin producing methanol early next year, with cellulosic ethanol production to follow in the second half of 2013. Greenfield collaborated with Enerkem on the initial construction efforts for that facility, but is not currently involved with the project, according to Gallant, who said Greenfield has opted to focus its initial cellulosic ethanol efforts on the Great Lakes region of Canada. Enerkem’s headquarters are in Quèbec, which pairs nicely with Greenfield’s geographic focus and was an attractive factor in the company’s decision to form a joint venture with Enerkem, he said.

Aside from geography and the opportunity for integration, Gallant said Greenfield was attracted to Enerkem’s “quality technology” to produce fuel from waste. “Being able to use sorted municipal solid waste to produce a transportation fuel is very attractive, obviously, to municipalities, and that has been part of our advanced biofuels strategy as a company,” he said.

Enerkem recently filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, laying the groundwork for a $125 million initial public offering. In the registration statement, the company noted that it has spent 10 years validating its technology using MSW as well as wood and agricultural residues. Enerkem’s goal is to produce 100 gallons of cellulosic ethanol per metric ton of feedstock at a cost of about $1.50 per gallon in a 10 MMgy facility. The company is currently working on a proposed 10 MMgy facility in Pontotoc, Miss., and said it believes the U.S. has 140 million metric tons of feedstock available from landfills annually, providing plenty of waste for additional facilities.