Suncor ethanol doubles capacity at Sarnia, Ontario plant

By Holly Jessen | April 05, 2011

An ethanol plant in Sarnia, Ontario, recently completed an expansion project—making it the largest ethanol plant in Canada. Suncor Energy St. Clair Ethanol Plant went from 200 MMly (52.8 MMgy) to 400 MMly.

"The St. Clair Ethanol Plant is the platform for growth of Suncor's biofuels portfolio, and our successful expansion of the plant's capacity not only reinforces our commitment to increasing renewable energy options in Canada but builds on the strength of our relationship with the St. Clair Township and the Sarnia-Lambton Region," said Jim Provias, vice-president, renewable energy.

The expansion project cost Suncor $120 million and created about 250 construction jobs. The plant, which first opened for operation in June 2006, now employs a total of 63 full time office and operating staff. The ethanol produced there is blended into Petro-Canada gasoline.

The corn-to-ethanol plant uses 40 million bushels of feed corn yearly, or about 20 percent of Ontario’s annual corn crop, according the company’s website. A Life Cycle Value Assessment conducted by the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development showed that the overall CO2 emissions of gasoline could be reduced by 300,000 tons by blending ethanol from the St. Clair plant into gasoline, creating E10. The expansion of the plant puts that number up to 600,000 tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions yearly.

The ethanol plant isn’t the company’s only, or even main, business pursuit. Based in Calgary, Alberta, Suncor Energy Inc. is an energy company strategically focused on developing Canada’s Athabasca oil sands. It has also invested in four operating wind power projects as well as several under construction in Canada. The ethanol production and wind power projects together are expected to displace the equivalent of nearly one million tons of CO2 yearly—as much as the tailpipe emissions of about 200,000 cars.

In late March the company received the President’s Award in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer's 2011 Responsible Canadian Energy Awards competition. The company was honored for becoming the first oil sands company to complete surface reclamation of a tailings pond. "We're honored to be acknowledged for our efforts," said Steve Williams, chief operating officer, Suncor. "Both projects are significant milestones on our journey toward sustainable development. Neither achievement would be possible without the exceptional contributions from our oil sands' reclamation and extraction operations teams."