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Edmonton renewable fuels facility is an environmental leader

Overview

Supported by Alberta Innovates, SBI BioEnergy Inc.’s new pilot plant for drop-in renewable diesel and jet biofuels will help Alberta meet its climate leadership objectives to find cleaner sources of energy generation and to protect the province’s health, environment and economy.

Challenge

 
 (From L to R) Former Edmonton City Councillor
 Amarjeet Sohi, SBI's Inder Singh, and Edmonton
 Mayor Don Iveson break ground on the SBI facility
 in July 2015.

Canada is currently a net importer of renewable diesel, with more than 240 million litres arriving annually from Singapore and Europe. Petro-refineries in Canada prefer to buy renewable diesel over biodiesel since it does not need to be blended and is fully compatible with existing infrastructure, distribution systems and engines. Renewable diesel can achieve higher greenhouse gas (GHG) savings compared to biodiesel since higher concentrations can be blended into regular fuel. However, Canada does not currently have strong capacity to produce renewable diesel.

An emerging option is drop-in renewable diesel. Drop-in fuels have a similar chemical profile to petro-hydrocarbons and are the next generation biofuels that may eventually replace biodiesel and ethanol. New technologies that can lower the cost of production are the key to their widespread adoption.

Solution

SBI BioEnergy Inc. (SBI) is an Alberta company that manufactures drop-in renewable diesel and jet biofuels from a variety of feedstock.

  • SBI utilizes a novel catalytic technology that does not require an external hydrogen source, like water. It is the only technology known that can convert biodiesel into renewable diesel.
  • Since SBI’s process does not require purchasing hydrogen, the capital cost of its refinery is approximately one-third of a typical refinery.
  • The operating cost is also considerably lower than competing technologies.

SBI will make its fuels from tall oil or vegetable oils.

Tall oil is a mixture of mainly acidic compounds found, like turpentine, in pine trees and obtained as a by-product of the pulp and paper industry. It is used as a resin in many different industries, including mining, paper manufacture, paint manufacture and synthetic rubber manufacture. Tall oil can be purchased from Kraft pulp and paper mills operated by companies like West Fraser.

SBI plans to use vegetable oils from non-food grade canola oil and eventually other crops (eg. carinata) that can grow on marginal land unsuited for food production.

Alberta Innovates has provided both financial support and mentorship to the company. Alberta Innovates has been key to the development of SBI’s business plan and funding applications. This includes SBI’s approved funding application to the former Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) in 2015.

Alberta Innovates has also introduced SBI BioEnergy to potential investors.

In March 2016, CCEMC contributed an additional $10 million to SBI. The company hopes to be able to produce 10 million litres of renewable diesel annually.

Outcome

  • SBI hosted a ground-breaking ceremony for its new multi-million dollar pilot facility in the Edmonton Research Park in July 2015.
  • The pilot plant, which will be able to produce up to 10 million litres of biofuel a year, is expected to begin operations in 2016 with a look towards eventually developing a full-scale commercial plant.
  • SBI is looking to raise $65 million dollars for its full-scale 240 million litre refinery.
  • In addition to renewable diesel, bio-jet fuel, renewable gasoline, SBI also produces clear glycerin which can be sold to food, pharmaceutical and personal care industries. SBI expects glycerin revenue to offset much of its costs to produce fuels.
  • SBI BioEnergy’s technology complements Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, and the City of Edmonton’s The Way We Green: Environmental Strategic Plan and Energy Transition Strategy.
  • SBI BioEnergy is helping create new jobs and diversify the economies of Edmonton and Alberta.