New biorefinery to open demonstration refinery

SBI BioEnergy says it has a unique process that uses no water or chemicals and generates no waste

An Edmonton company is reaching the final stage of its project to build a biorefinery that will convert non-food canola oil and waste fats into next-generation, renewable transportation fuels that can replace or can be blended with conventional fuels.

The company, SBI BioEnergy (SBI), has been working on scaling up its novel “catalytic” processing technology for the past three years, thanks to $1.4 million in funding from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio). The process creates no emissions, generates no waste, and costs less than other alternative fuel technologies.

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A new demonstration refinery capable of producing up to 10 million litres of renewable fuel annually is expected to be in operation by year’s end. The company’s next goal will be to build a full-scale commercial biorefinery able to produce up to 240 million litres of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel annually by 2018.

AI Bio, a provincial government agency, provided the funding to SBI in 2013 to advance its proprietary process from the lab to a demonstration-scale plant.

“This will not only provide a new market for agricultural producers and companies, it will also help to diversify the provincial economy and bring environmental benefits by filling a technological gap and advancing the renewable fuel industry in Alberta “ said Steve Price, CEO of AI Bio.

SBI uses a proprietary catalyst instead of hydrogen in its processing. The process is continuous rather than producing fuel in batches, so further efficiencies are achieved. Feedstocks include off-grade canola oil, waste cooking oil, animal fat from rendering plants, and “tall oil,” a natural byproduct from wood pulp operations. It can also use other non-food oilseeds (such as camelina and carinata mustard) from crops grown on marginal land unsuited for food production. The technology also produces a co-stream of high-purity glycerine, a value-added chemical used in the manufacture of food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, the company said.

“This is new technology, invented in Alberta. It comes at the right time in the right place and the market is huge,” says SBI president and CEO Inder Pal Singh, a chemist who founded the company.

Alberta is currently importing 300 million litres per year of renewable diesel, primarily from overseas, to blend with conventional fuel, he said.

In addition to AI Bio funding, SBI has received about $460,000 in support from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. Earlier this month, the Alberta government announced the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) has earmarked a $10-million contribution for SBI to continue its work.

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