A $750-million straw fibreboard plant has been proposed for the Stettler region.
Great Plains MDF Production Inc. says the facility will be the world’s largest medium-density-fibreboard plant in the world when it’s completed.
The company says it will use surplus wheat straw rather than wood to manufacture its product, noting trees take 25 to 40 years to mature, while straw can be grown annually.
Great Plains says its composite board meets national standards for use in a wide variety of products, from kitchen cabinets to traditional furniture, mouldings, laminated flooring, or other materials for the do-it-yourself market.
Fibreboard made out of straw is 14 per cent lighter than that produced with wood and requires less resin and other additives, according to the company.
As part of the project, six to eight straw storage depots will be constructed up to 110 kilometres away from the plant, to ensure the facility retains access to needed materials.
It’s estimated 2,500 metric tonnes of straw fibre will be required each day at peak capacity, totalling 900,000 metric tonnes annually.
The company says the plant will generate 600 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs during the construction phase, and 1,000 permanent direct jobs and 2,400 indirect jobs once completed.
The project needs to go through three or four months of public and regulatory approvals. If the approvals are secured, it is estimated that the plant will begin operation within 20 months.
Great Plains says excess straw used to be burned, until the practice was restricted to prevent air pollution.
“There is no longer a need to destroy straw,” the company says on its website.
“Indeed, it becomes an extremely valuable resource and commodity. Testing has proven that wheat straw can be collected in large quantities by machines that don’t rut or destroy fields.
“In this way, the product can be harvested efficiently, yet independent of the farmers, who, while focusing on other aspects of their business, will be paid by the metric tonne for their product.”