Enerkem Inc., a waste-to-biofuels and chemicals producer based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, recently announced it raised $115 million to initiate the production of biomethanol from non-recyclable household garbage at its facility in Edmonton, Canada.
Waste360 sat down with Timothy Cesarek, senior vice president of business development for Enerkem to discuss the company’s product expansion and being one of the first to have successfully produced biomethanol from municipal solid waste at the commercial scale.
Waste360: How will these funds help Enerkem become one of the first companies to have successfully produced biomethanol from municipal solid waste at the commercial scale?
Timothy Cesarek: This funding will be used for the product expansion of the Edmonton full-scale facility and the company’s global growth. Enerkem will expand its product offering by soon adding to its Edmonton facility a module converting biomethanol into ethanol. The company will therefore have the ability to sell two products. We also plan to leverage the expertise we have developed with our Edmonton facility to develop similar facilities, based on our standard modular design, in North America and abroad with several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) in place in Europe and China.
Waste360: Describe Enerkem’s waste-to-energy (WTE) systems.
Timothy Cesarek: Enerkem makes biofuels and renewable chemicals from waste. Our breakthrough technology uses garbage instead of petroleum for the production of liquid transportation fuels and renewable chemicals. We convert non-recyclable municipal solid waste into methanol, ethanol and other widely used chemical intermediates. Our modular facilities can be replicated anywhere in the world as a competitive and sustainable alternative to incineration or landfilling.
Waste360: How did the company begin converting waste-to-energy?
Timothy Cesarek: Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, our first full-scale facility in Edmonton, Canada, is also the world’s first major collaboration between a large city and a waste-to-biofuels producer to address waste disposal challenges and turn municipal solid waste into biofuels and renewable chemicals. This facility is the result of more than 10 years of efforts to scale up Enerkem’s technology from pilot and demonstration, to full commercial scale. It is also part of a comprehensive municipal waste-to-biofuels initiative in partnership with the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions.
Waste360: What makes them different than other systems?
Timothy Cesarek: We are the first in the world to have successfully produced biomethanol from municipal solid waste at the commercial scale. Our exclusive process enables the use of municipal solid waste and other waste residues as unconventional and low-cost feedstocks for the production of biofuels and renewable chemicals. The Enerkem technology is therefore feedstock flexible and multiproduct.
Waste360: How does the system work? How is energy then produced?
Timothy Cesarek: Enerkem’s proprietary technology chemically recycles the carbon molecules contained in non-recyclable waste (i.e. household garbage). In less than five minutes, our process first converts these carbon molecules into a pure synthesis gas (also called syngas), which is then turned into biofuels and renewable chemicals, using commercially available catalysts. Our technology requires relatively low temperatures and pressures, which reduces energy requirements and costs.
Waste360: Has the need for your systems increased in recent years?
Timothy Cesarek: Enerkem is a fast-growing company, and there is a lot of interest for what we do. We want to be a world-scale biofuels and biochemicals producer and we are currently developing a number of facilities, based on our standard modular design, in North America and abroad with several MOUs in place in EU and China. The issues addressed by our technology exist anywhere around the world.
Waste360: How many of your systems are in use across North America today? And in the U.S. specifically?
Timothy Cesarek: Enerkem owns a full-scale commercial facility in Alberta (Canada) as well as a demonstration plant and a pilot facility in Quebec (Canada). We are currently developing a number of facilities, based on our standard modular design, in North America (U.S. and Canada) and abroad, with several MOUs in place in EU and China.
Waste360: How much energy do your systems produce?
Timothy Cesarek: When at full capacity, the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility will produce up to 38 million litres of ethanol, using 100 000 dry metric tons per year of non-recyclable, non-compostable municipal solid waste from the City of Edmonton.
Waste360: What is coming down the pipeline for Enerkem?
Timothy Cesarek: We recently announced that we initiated commercial production of biomethanol in Edmonton. This is a pivotal milestone for Enerkem and we believe that this world-class facility could transform the global waste industry. We owe our success in scaling-up this breakthrough technology to the rigorous approach we adopted—we did not skip any step while scaling up from pilot to demonstration to commercial scale—and to our strong team.