Waste Not

Ethanol is one part of Waste Management’s sustainability goals
By Holly Jessen | January 11, 2012

What better company to invest in waste-to-biofuels ventures than one that deals with waste? In November, Waste Management Inc. closed an equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc. and agreed to provide a secured loan facility of up to $70 million in funding for the company’s proposed Sierra BioFuels plant. A month later, Waste Management and EB Investments invested $15 million in Canadian funds (about $14.5 million) for a minority equity interest in Enerkem Alberta Biofuels L.P.

This isn’t the first time Waste Management has partnered with these companies. Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is working to build a 10 MMgy municipal solid waste-to-ethanol facility near Reno, Nev., has entered into long-term feedstock agreements with Waste Management. Construction is underway and the plant is expected to begin production in the second half of 2013. The 36 MMly MSW ethanol plant Enerkem Inc. is building in Edmonton, Alberta, has also received equity investments from Waste Management in the past. That plant is expected to begin production in 2012. A second 10 MMly sorted MSW and wood residue ethanol plant, planned for Pontotoc, Miss., is under development.

Waste-to-ethanol isn’t the only advanced technology Waste Management is supporting, Wes Muir, the company’s director of corporate communications tells EPM. The company has two sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production by 2020 and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste. “We have a very wide range of thermal, chemical and fermentation technology investments,” Muir says. The company has a portfolio of nearly 30 investment projects, acquisitions and joint ventures working to recover materials and resources from waste, according to its 2011 sustainability report update. That includes Terrabon LLC, developer of a waste-to-fuel conversion technology that converts biomass to high-octane gasoline; InEnTec Inc., a waste gasification company that operates a commercial demonstration plant in Arlington, Ore.; and Agnion Energy Inc., which has research and development facilities in Germany to perfect its allothermal gasification technology that converts wood-based biomass into synthetic gas, Muir says. —Holly Jessen