Plant a work in progress

It’s been 3 1/2 years since a massive bioenergy plant proposed for near Innisfail was announced — and work has yet to begin.

It’s been 3 1/2 years since a massive bioenergy plant proposed for near Innisfail was announced — and work has yet to begin.

But the project is still very much alive, says Curtis Chandler, president of Dominion Energy Services LLC.

Dominion Energy, The Carlyle Group and Riverstone Holdings LLC are the partners behind Alberta Ethanol and Biodiesel GP Ltd., a multimillion-dollar venture to build an ethanol, biodiesel and canola crush facility in Central Alberta. The company is seeking production incentives from the federal and provincial governments, and Chandler has said the project is not viable without such financial support.

The province said last week that it is extending its Bioenergy Producer Credit Program for five years, until 2016. And Chandler believes Alberta Ethanol and Biodiesel is close to receiving approval under Canada’s ecoEnergy for Biofuels Program, which is scheduled to continue until 2017.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to get it,” he said. “We’re even moving things forward in-house at this point.

“But it’s not a guarantee.”

Chandler said Alberta Ethanol and Biodiesel’s application under the ecoEnergy for Biofuels Program has made it though the first round of the approval process, with the company asked to provide follow-up information.

“We sent that in this morning,” he said on Monday.

Chandler added that extension of Alberta’s Bioenergy Producer Credit Program was also a critical development.

“That was very important. We needed them both.”

The two programs are intended to encourage production of renewable fuels.

Once work begins, said Chandler, it will take about 18 months to build the first phase of the Alberta Ethanol and Biodiesel facility. That would consist of an ethanol plant capable of producing 190 million litres of ethanol annually.

Subsequent phases would double this capacity, and add a 380-million-litre biodiesel plant and a 380-million-litre canola crush plant.

“The first step is to get Phase 1 going and as we’re completing Phase 1, then we’ll decide what we’re going to do,” said Chandler of the timelines.

The delay in commencing work should reduce construction costs, which were estimated at $400 million in 2006.

“But economics for ethanol right now is not what it was when we announced the facility,” pointed out Chandler. “It’s overbuilt in the U.S. right now, so the market needs to catch up with itself a little bit.”

He also pointed out, however, that future domestic ethanol requirements will far exceed what Alberta Ethanol and Biodiesel will be able to produce.

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