Prion-Destroying Plant Planned For Lacombe

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Years of research and testing in Scotland to confirm a new Canadian technology to destroy BSE prions and other infectious proteins and disease agents has Biosphere Technologies on the verge of building a commercial-scale demonstration plant in Lacombe.

Biosphere president and CEO Erick Schmidt is the mastermind behind a process that uses high-temperature saturated steam to break disease agents into basic raw materials to render then unable to create livestock diseases. The process also turns the potential disease agents, such as BSE prions thought to be found mostly in the the brain and spinal cord of cattle, into organic fertilizers.

In a telephone interview, Schmidt said the new process, confirmed by the Roslin Institute in Scotland, has been published in the peer review journal Process Biochemistry. The final step to commercialization of the process is the Lacombe plant which will confirm full-scale operational efficiency, he said.

The Town of Lacombe and council of the County of Lacombe has passed public resolutions supporting the $35-million project which will be able to take advantage of some of the work at the federal Lacombe Research Centre.

Schmidt said the facility will be designed to process a wide range of inedible animal byproducts and carcass materials from meat processors and from farm animal deaths. It will also be able to treat wet waste from commercial and household sources to produce feedstocks for anaerobic digestion designed for production of biogas and co-generated electricity and heat.

“We’ve been at this for more than a decade,” says Schmidt. “We have shown that our process can be an environmentally beneficial alternative for carcass and organic waste disposal to incineration, landfills or processing with alkaline chemicals which create serious disposal problems.”

Schmidt said the end products of his process will mostly be used as fertilizer. They will be safe to use as fertilizer and feed additives because the high-pressure saturated steam molecules will split the molecules of the pathogens so they will end up as a valuable byproduct.

Schmidt says his process is the safest validated process in the world to destroy prions and transform risk organic materials into beneficial nutrient products.

A section of the demonstration plant will continue research projects undertaken with Agriculture Canada, the Alberta Research Council, Olds College, and the Alberta Agriculture Crop Diversification Centre South. That work is designed to develop new value-added nutrient products from inedible animal byproducts.

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