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Fertilizer developed with AITF support strengthens connections between energy, forestry and agriculture sectors

Overview

With support from Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF), Calgary’s Sulvaris Inc. provides environmental and agricultural leadership in Alberta through the conversion of sulphur, biomass and ammonia to create fertilizer products for the agricultural sector.

Challenge

 
 Keyera's Strachan Gas Plant, the future site of Sulvaris' Vitasul
 Production Facility.

Virtually all sulphur produced in the world today is a by-product of the energy sector – oil and gas processing, specifically. When crude oil contains more than 0.5 per cent sulphur, it is said to be sour. When natural gas contains more than 4 ppm sulphur, it is said to be sour. Both of these products must be refined and the sulphur extracted in order to meet stringent content standards. In Alberta, many sour gas wells are uneconomic but can still act as a strong source of sulphur production.

Biomass is a term for the biological material that comes from living or recently living plants, including trees—from their roots, trunks and branches to their bark, needles, leaves and fruit. Forests represent a tremendously abundant source of biomass and Alberta’s forestry sector is always exploring new ways to optimize this resource for the production of various bioproducts.

With both an increasing demand for sulphur and growth of the bioeconomy globally, these historical waste by-products represent a market opportunity that is strengthening the connections between the energy, forestry and agriculture sectors.

Solution

Sulvaris is a conversion company that creates dynamic, high-yielding opportunities out of global industrial demands. Its proprietary technologies focus on the creation of value-added links between the energy and agricultural sectors.

One of the Sulvaris platforms is a proprietary technology that converts elemental sulphur, an oil and gas production by-product, into Vitasul G – a premium plant nutrient sulphur fertilizer product consisting of granulated micron sulphur particles. Developed internally by Sulvaris, this technology is an important link between high volumes of excess sulphur generated by the energy sector and continually growing demand for efficient sources of plant nutrient sulphur in global agricultural markets.

Through products like Vitasul G, Sulvaris is helping meet the growing international demand for sulphur-based fertilizers. The demand for plant nutrient sulphur globally is high as sulphur deficiencies are becoming the limiting factor for crop production in many regions of the world.

The other platform is Carbon Control Technology (CCT), which was first developed at Alberta Research Council Inc. in 2005 and transferred to Sulvaris in 2006. CCT is an advanced proprietary production technology that uses biomass, ammonia and sulphuric acid to generate unique plant nutrition products which will provide crops with controlled release nutrients and carbon. CCT products provide an outlet for wood waste, a high-value outlet for by-product sulphur and/or sulphuric acid and delivers significant greenhouse gas reduction benefits.

By tapping into resources like uneconomic sour gas wells to produce sulphur and forestry waste as feedstock, Sulvaris is a strong example of Alberta’s leadership in the commercialization of platform technologies in the agricultural industry. AITF (formerly the Alberta Research Council) provided significant research assistance to Sulvaris predecessor companies of Carbon Solutions and Sulphur Solutions from 2006-2008 resulting in the development of the patented CCT technology.

AITF has also provided financial support through its Voucher and Product Demonstration Programs and extensive guidance through the non-dilutive grant landscape to Sulvaris. AITF introduced Sulvaris to multiple players in the innovation system which greatly benefited their thought process related to grants, transportation and feedstock availability. AITF has been key to the development of the CCT technology in 2005 and management of the patent portfolio to date. AITF has also introduced Sulvaris to various other government programs to access non-dilutive funds.

Outcome

In 2014, Sulvaris received a $40 million injection of equity capital from Alberta Investment Management Corporation to commercialize the Vitasul G product.

The 217,000 tonne Vitasul G plant in Strachan, Alberta is a 50/50 joint venture with Keyera (Alberta based integrated oil and gas gathering and processing, and liquids business).

One of Sulvaris’ current research objectives is to further develop the CCT technology platform. This includes working with a variety of biomass types to select the final commercial source and location in Western Canada. Sulvaris is seeking a location for pilot scale research work within Alberta (such as Crossfield, Devon or Vegreville) and representatives from Sulvaris and AITF toured the AITF Vegreville temporary lab facilities in June 2014 for company consideration. Sulvaris is seeking funding to complete the development and commercialization of its CCT products.

Sulvaris currently employs 16 people with staffing numbers expected to grow to 30 in the near future.



For more information, please contact:


Bill Teeple
Executive Director
Investment Services
Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures
780.450.5563
Bill.Teeple@albertainnovates.ca

Rick Knoll

CEO
Sulvaris Inc.
6443 - 2nd Street SE
Calgary, Alberta, T2H 1J5
Office: 403.259.4777
Mobile: 403.667.7425
RKnoll@sulvaris.com
www.sulvaris.com