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Water Today Title April 21, 2024

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Update 2020/11/22


By Suzanne Forcese

Around the world 17 million metric tonnes of garbage are either landfilled or incinerated every week with devastating effects on our environment. A Canadian Company has created a disruptive strategy to reduce that amount by 90%. The magic lies in using waste as a resource to produce biofuels and chemicals as a sustainable and economic solution for communities and industries around the world.

Enerkem Facility in Edmonton
Enerkem’s full-scale waste-to-biofuels facility in Edmonton Alberta

Enerkem (https://youtu.be/X5SjcPBLFDU), a young company based in Montreal, Quebec, with commercial scale facilities that can be deployed globally, produces advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals from biomass and residual material in a process that is astonishingly fast -- less than five minutes.

WATERTODAY reached out to Enerkem’s team to find out more.

We learned that the patented technology was developed in 2000 by Dr. Esteban Chornet, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sherbrooke. Simply put, it is an advanced thermochemical process that chemically recycles carbon molecules contained in waste into added value products such as renewable methanol and ethanol.

Enerkem Process
Synthetic gas is produced from waste in less than five minutes which is then converted into advanced low-carbon transportation biofuel – enough to fuel over 400,000 cars on a 5% ethanol blend Photo courtesy Enerkem

Enerkem’s Edmonton plant(https://youtu.be/PwFNXKdgvLk) became the world’s first major collaboration between a city and biofuel producer when it began its full-scale commercial facility in 2015 – a collaboration among the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment solutions.

The plant has the capacity to produce 38 million litres of methanol and ethanol per year. Enerkem’s waste-based ethanol is -55 gCO2e/MJ while regular gasoline has an intensity of +88 gCO2e/MJ. Carbon intensity measures GHG emissions emitted when producing and consuming a transportation fuel. The intensity is measured in grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule of energy (gCO2e/MJ) and includes all aspects of extracting, producing, transporting, and consuming a unit of energy of transportation fuel.

Researchers at the Edmonton plant are looking ahead at waste management processes as well as green chemicals of the future by addressing new markets such as aviation fuel. To date the company’s research and engineering teamwork has resulted in 22 patent families, over 100 international patents.

In May 2020, Enerkem partnered with NOVA Chemicals Corporation in a joint development agreement to explore turning non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal waste into ethylene, a basic building block of plastics.

Peter Niewenhuizen, Enerkem’s Vice President of Technology Strategy & Deployment said, “With over 20 years of technology development, we have built a robust gasification platform to turn waste and biomass into fuels and chemicals with high carbon efficiency. The technology has the scale and versatility to supply raw materials for the circular and decarbonized chemical industry – not just for plastics but also for many other chemical ingredients that are vital for life.”

The Company is gearing up to take their eco-activities around the globe with their prefabricated systems based on the company’s modular manufacturing infrastructure.

Beyond waste to biofuel, the future of the circular economy will increasingly be driven by science.



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