Canadian company wants trash to fuel your car

March 19, 2009

Enerkem Inc,  a private company based in Montreal, wants to kill two birds with one stone — fuel your car while getting paid for reducing trash mountains. They say they can do it by using garbage and biomass as feedstocks for plants that make second generation ethanol and other advanced biofuels

Vincent Chornet, the president and chief executive, said that Enerkem and GreenField Ethanol has reached a deal with the city of Edmonton to take its trash. “They will pay us to take it away from them,” he said. ”Fifty percent of what we put in trash is not recyclable.” That plant should start making fuel in 2011.

Edmonton will pay less than it normally would for hauling away trash, Chornet said, but he wouldn’t say how much his company is making per ton for taking away the smelly stuff.

On Thursday Enerkem announced plans to take the process to the United States, which, it is probably safe to say, has bigger waste bounties.  My city New York, for example, exports tens of thousands of tons per day of trash to states as far away as Ohio on trains and barges.

Enerkem,  which is financed by U.S. venture capital firms Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and others, plans to build and operate a plant in Pontotoc, Mississippi.  Under an agreement, the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi will supply nearly 190,000 tons per year of unsorted municipal solid waste for the plant to help make some 20 million gallons per year of fuel.

Chornet says the beauty of using trash as a feedstock is that small decentralized plants can make fuel close to where it is needed, which could one day, perhaps, trim reliance on big oil refineries for fuel.

The company plans to gasify the garbage at 400 degrees Centigrade, or higher depending on the feedstock, and then convert the gas into liquid fuels.  Once the process gets started,  the trash itself fuels the plant. Like the process of burning coal, the gasified garbage leaves behind ash waste, which would have to be dealt with through landfilling or as an ingredient for concrete.

A lot of alternative fuel companies, even second generation biofuel companies, have had problems lately, especially as motor fuel demand has waned with the recession. But experts say fuel will be at a premium once brighter economic times come.

Is Enerkem onto an idea that should not be scrapped?

Photo: Daniel Aguilar, Reuters

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[...] be powered by household trash? The real crazy thing is it’s about to become a reality. By 2011, Enerkem, Inc, a Canadian based company, will be opening their first trash-to-ethanol plant in [...]