Canadian company works to showcase closed-loop ethanol plant

By Holly Jessen | December 14, 2011

By the end of January, Atlantic BioEnergy Corp. expects to be producing ethanol at its new $6.2 million demonstration plant in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island. The 79,000 gallon a year ethanol plant will use energy beets as a feedstock for ethanol and the leftover pulp from the beets as a feedstock for an anaerobic digester that will power the facility. “Basically what we have is a closed-loop facility here and one of the sources of revenue is ethanol,” said Ron Coles, vice president of agricultural resources and public relations for the company.

On Dec. 2, the Canadian government announced nearly $2 million in funding for the project. The government of Prince Edward Island, through Innovation PEI, will provide the company with $1.8 million in loans, grants and labor rebates. In addition, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is investing $340,512 in the project. This isn’t the first funding Atlantic BioEnergy has received. In 2008 the company was a successful applicant for funding through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which has helped ready the company for commercialization in mid- to late 2012, Coles told EPM.

“This new facility will be active in the production of ethanol from sugar beets and will serve as a working model to demonstrate the ethanol-making process to future customers interested in Atlantic BioEnergy Corporation’s ability to deliver industrial-scale facilities,” said the Honorable Allen Roach, minister of innovation and advanced learning. “Our support for this facility will add to the export potential for Atlantic BioEnergy Corporation but also for the many Island suppliers who play a role in this project.”

Atlantic BioEnergy has been conducting feedstock trials since 2007 and has operated a pre-commercial processing facility in Milford, Nova Scotia, since 2010. The company’s goal is to work as a design and engineering firm and is currently in discussions with a few North American groups interested in utilizing its closed-loop energy beet technology, he said. The Prince Edward Island facility will give customers a place to see the technology at work.

Atlantic BioEnergy’s technology produces a low carbon fuel with an energy ratio of 1 to 10. “It’s significantly different than what’s in the marketplace now,” he says. The anaerobic digester will produce thermal heat and electricity for the facility. And, at the end of the process, the company can extract nutrients and excess water for its crops.

Currently, the company has no plans to build a full-scale plant on Prince Edward Island. That part of Canada has sandy soil and problems with erosion. Because of that the goverment has legislated row crop rotations. Although farmers could add sugar beets to their planting rotations, it’s not likely. “Right now the crop does not fit into what a potato grower wants, which is potatoes in the soil every three years,” he said. In fact, the main reason the company is building its demo plant there is because two main employees, Coles and Wayne Simmons, vice president of engineering, live there there. The company will continue its research, design and engineering work for other customers while headquartered at PEI.