By Charles Tremblay, Vice President, Project Delivery, Enerkem
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In December 2020, Enerkem made a paramount announcement. With a group of strategic partners that include major investor Shell, Suncor, Proman, Hydro-Québec (supplying green hydrogen and oxygen), and the Québec and Canadian governments’ support, Enerkem made public the construction of a biofuel plant in Varennes, in the Greater Montréal area. This project’s investment is over $875M CAD, generating annual recurring economic benefits of $85 million for Québec.
Varennes Carbon Recycling by Enerkem
Varennes Carbon Recycling (VCR) will produce biofuels and renewable chemicals made from non-recyclable residual materials as well as wood waste. In fact, the plant will leverage green hydrogen and oxygen produced through electrolysis, transforming Quebec’s excess hydroelectricity capacity into value-added biofuels and renewable chemicals.
VCR will convert more than 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste and wood waste into an annual production of nearly 125 million liters of biofuels. Furthermore, the contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction will be equivalent to taking close to 50,000 vehicles off the road annually.
Moreover, VCR will include constructing one of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen and oxygen production facilities with an 87-megawatt electrolyzer leveraging Quebec’s green electricity. The entire project will create more than 500 jobs during construction and about 100 permanent direct skilled jobs in operations.
Charles Tremblay, Vice President, Project Delivery, has been leading this vast project for Enerkem; First of all, “we are proud to partner with leading international energy and chemical industry players. Also, to benefit from the support of our federal and provincial governments and the City of Varennes. Moreover, this strong support validates the uniqueness of our gasification technology to enable the production of circular synthesis gas. Besides, it is a major achievement for Enerkem to have its second full-scale commercial plant become a reality. Thus, showcasing our unique, clean disruptive technology that transforms waste into biofuels and renewable chemicals. So, we have learned a great deal from our initial pilot project in Westbury, Québec; also, from our first commercial demonstration plant in Edmonton, Alberta.”
An exceptional showcase to display Québec’s expertise in innovative green technology
Thus, the plant will be an example of Québec and Canadian know-how and leadership in developing innovative clean technologies. Thanks to its unprecedented technology, the company was able to bring together world-class global strategic partners. Therefore, they also intend to take a leading investment role in this flagship facility of the green economy.
This plant will produce one of the lowest carbon-intensive fuels by diverting non-recyclable waste. Besides, it will create wood waste materials from landfills and through access to green electricity and green hydrogen and oxygen.
A unique and clean disruptive technology developed by Enerkem
Enerkem’s technology enables recycling the carbon and hydrogen contained in non-recyclable waste and wood waste currently landfilled and burned. Moreover, Enerkem’s proprietary thermochemical process allows converting this carbon into biofuels and renewable chemicals. Those are made from methanol, which is the project’s intermediary product.
Therefore, these products enable the society to reduce the consumption of traditional hydrocarbons. These are mainly used for transportation and in everyday products; for instance, paint, windshield washer fluid, plastics, and chemicals of all kinds.
Enerkem is a private Canadian company with 215 employees established since 2000. It has its headquarters in Montreal, QC., and R&D facilities in Sherbrooke, QC, and Edmonton, AB. Since then, the company has created an effective technology development team that has been successful in obtaining over 100 patents internationally. These are related to various aspects of gasification and conversion of waste and biomass to higher-value products.
Tangible support for the circular economy
The proposed Varennes plant will support Québec’s Plan pour une économie verte 2030 (PEV 2030), Québec’s energy policy. Furthermore, it aligns with the government’s desire to pursue the development of a circular economy less dependent on fossil fuel products (40% reduction by 2030). In addition to providing second life to waste material, it will expand the overall supply of alternative fuels. Besides it will increase biofuel production in Québec, advancing its leadership in renewable energy and innovation.