By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Enerkem, the company that plans to build a $100 million plant in Pontotoc County, took a significant step this week, announcing initial production of ethanol from solid waste.
On Thursday, the Montreal-based company said its demonstration site in Westbury, Quebec, produced its first batch of cellulosic ethanol.
“The start of ethanol production at our Westbury facility is a significant milestone,” said Enerkem President and CEO Vincent Chornet. “Enerkem has already produced cellulosic ethanol at its smaller scale pilot laboratory facility in Sherbrooke. This new achievement in Westbury allows us to confirm the process design of our proprietary methanol-to-ethanol technology for its deployment at Enerkem’s full-scale commercial plants in Edmonton and other locations.”
Enerkem has said in previous interviews it hoped to begin construction by the end of the year on the Pontotoc County plant at the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority landfill.
The company’s vice president of government affairs and communication, Marie-Helene Labrie, said Enerkem still is working to get the project started but wasn’t ready to give a definite date.
“Our project in Mississippi is based on the same design as our waste-to-biofuels project in Edmonton, where construction is progressing well,” she said. “In Mississippi, we are focusing our efforts on key activities such as the final commercial agreements with our local partner, the state permits, the final plant design and the financing. Construction is expected to begin once these activities are completed.”
In Westbury, Enerkem said the newly installed equipment for the conversion of methanol into cellulosic ethanol is used in combination with the larger methanol equipment already in operation at Westbury.
The facility was built in phases, following the three main steps of Enerkem’s process, and was part of a comprehensive program to scale-up the company’s proprietary technology. Enerkem said the technology has been developed and tested during the past 11 years, at both the pilot laboratory facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the Westbury demonstration plant.
proving the process
Enerkem said the primary purpose of the Westbury facility “is to validate the technology process design before full-scale commercial production, to test various waste feedstocks coming from customers and partners, as well as to continuously improve the technology.”
The company has said the Pontotoc plant will produce up to 10 million gallons of ethanol a year. Enerkem also has said more than 70 jobs will be created at the plant, which will take about 18 months to complete once construction begins.
Enerkem last June said it had received $60 million from fuel refiner giant Valero Energy, joining a list of investors including Waste Management, in its Pontotoc project.
Last January, it secured an $80 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In December 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Enerkem a $50 million grant.