Ontario cellulosic developer secures funding for demo plant

By Kris Bevill | January 18, 2011

Mississauga, Ontario-based Woodland Biofuels Inc. has announced the completion of financing and beginning of construction of its 750,000-liter demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol production facility. The plant will be located in the University of Western Ontario’s Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, approximately two hours southwest of Toronto, and will produce ethanol from waste wood and other municipal and agricultural wastes using the company’s gasification process. Investors in the $12 million project include the Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund, which is financed by the Province of Ontario, as well as Toronto-based equity investment firm Investeco Capital and David LeGresley, former vice-chairman of Canadian investment firm National Bank Financial.

Woodland CEO and President Greg Nuttall said his company’s production process is uniquely situated to produce low-cost cellulosic ethanol because it uses a three-step catalytic process to convert syngas to ethanol, as opposed to the more common one-step process. “Most use a Fischer-Tropsch reaction that creates a chemical soup which has ethanol in it as well as lots of other products,” he said. “In our case, we go through three catalytic reactions designed to produce a single product at the end, which is ethanol. So we end up with a process stream which is very close to 99 percent ethanol.”

Nuttall said the demonstration plant, which is scheduled to be operational by mid-2012, will prove the company can produce approximately 130 gallons of ethanol per bone dry metric ton of feedstock at a production cost of around $1 per gallon. “Efficiency of production is everything as long as it translates to a lower cost of production, which is the case with our process,” he said.

The only coproduct produced using Woodland’s production method is excess energy, which Nuttall said could be converted to electricity or used as steam to power an adjacent facility. The company considers its production process to be carbon neutral because it plans to use waste feedstocks, such as slash from the forest industry that would otherwise release CO2 into the atmosphere anyway. “We don’t eliminate that CO2-release process, but we don’t increase it either,” he said.

Once the demo plant is up and running, work will begin on the company’s first 20 MMgy commercial-scale facility. Woodland plans to collaborate with Edmonton, Alberta-based Thermo Design Engineering Ltd. to build plants ranging in capacity from 20 MMgy to 50 MMgy in markets worldwide, although Nuttall expects the first four facilities to be located in North America. Other markets of interest include India, China, Brazil and Southeast Asia, he said.