Enerkem to build cellulosic ethanol plant in U.S.

By Anna Austin | March 05, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 20, 2009, at 2:26 p.m. CST

Canadian cellulosic ethanol producer Enerkem Inc. will enter the U.S. ethanol market, and has unveiled plans to construct a cellulosic ethanol plant in Pontotoc, Miss.

In mid-January, Enerkem initiated start-up operations at its commercial-scale syngas-to-ethanol/methanol plant in Westbury, Quebec. (Read "Enerkem syngas-to-ethanol plant begins start-up.")

Since 2003, the company's thermochemical gasification and catalytic synthesis technology has been tested at a pilot-scale facility in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

The $250 million Mississippi project will recycle and convert approximately 60 percent, or 189,000 tons, of the municipal solid waste (MSW) at the Three Rivers Landfill, where the 20 MMgy facility will be located. Enerkem has signed a Memorandum of Intent with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi for the MSW supply.

Besides MSW, the plant will also utilize wood residues from regional forest and agricultural operations, as well as treated wood.

Marie-Helene Labrie, Enerkem vice president of government affairs and communications, said there were a number of reasons that Mississippi was chosen for the location of the project. "First of all, it has a rich supply of natural resources which is key for securing feedstock. The availability and cost of forest biomass in Mississippi is very attractive," she said. "On the MSW feedstock side, the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority and the Three Rivers Planning and Development District were very receptive to our project to transform their municipal solid waste into second-generation. It has contributed to our selection of Mississippi."

Labrie said Mississippi also has a good infrastructure to facilitate the sale and distribution of ethanol, which includes blenders, distributors, barges and railways.

In addition to the ethanol plant, an upstream MSW recycling and pretreatment center will be built. Overall, the project is expected to create 150 long-term direct and indirect jobs, and generate 300 additional jobs during construction and start-up.

The start date for construction of the project hasn't been decided yet, but Labrie said it could possibly be sometime in 2010. "We are still developing the project, and are negotiating the final binding agreements with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority for the municipal solid waste feedstock," she said.