While Earth Day is celebrated globally each spring, the fight against climate change is a 365-day annual mission says the company whose technology is behind Canada’s largest biorefinery.
“At Enerkem, we could say that Earth Day is every day,” says CEO Dominique Boies.
He says the Québec-based company’s goal is to contribute to the energy transition by participating in energy diversification and responding to the urgent need for waste management.
“That’s why, every day, our team works to develop and commercialize innovative technologies that convert waste materials into low-carbon fuels and circular chemicals.”
Enerkem validated its proprietary thermochemical technology at its first commercial plant in Alberta that has been in operation since 2016. It was the basis for development of a $1.2 billion biorefinery in Varennes, Que., that will include Canada’s largest electrolyzer. The electrolyzer will supply clean hydrogen and oxygen to convert more than 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste and residual biomass into biomethanol with a capacity of up to 130 million litres annually.
The project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 170,000 tCO2eq/yr and divert 100,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfills every year. That is equivalent to taking 50,000 vehicles off the road every year.
A joint venture of Suncor, Shell, Proman and the Government of Québec, Varennes Carbon Recycling received a $277-million investment from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB).
“Converting waste and residual biomass into clean hydrogen is the CIB’s latest effort helping the country reach net zero by 2050 and represents its first investment in low-carbon fuels,” says CEO Ehren Cory.
Investment is essential to support development of infrastructure involved in the energy transition sector, he says.
“New facilities in an emerging sector are always more expensive and usually require more investment, especially at the beginning.”
Massive investments in the wind and solar sectors, for example, resulted in huge technological improvements that drastically reduced the cost of low-carbon intensity alternatives over time.
And Boies says the CIB’s investment in the Varennes project is crucial to ensure its development.
“Large-scale infrastructure projects, especially those that involve innovative and cutting-edge renewable technologies, are capital-intensive and require significant upfront investments that are not always feasible for private investors alone,” he adds.
“CIB’s support provided the de-risking necessary to move forward with the commercialization of Enerkem’s disruptive technology that will generate the first large-scale production of biofuels from waste in Canada.”
Boies says financial support is critical to the development of the green economy in Canada, especially at a time where competitors are investing more and more in their energy transition with the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and Europe’s Green Deal Industrial Plan.
“Those two pieces of legislation will act as investment magnets. Canada should continue to develop its response to those initiatives. It should be a balance between ambitious regulations, incentives, loans and guarantees.”