Plasco project generating some heat

Preliminary work has begun on the site for a proposed waste-to-energy plant, although there is no word yet on critical federal funding for the $100-million project.

Preliminary work has begun on the site for a proposed waste-to-energy plant, although there is no word yet on critical federal funding for the $100-million project.

Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group needs $24 million in federal Green Infrastructure Fund cash to go ahead with the 200-tonne-a-day gasification plant that would be built in Red Deer County. The plant uses high heat to convert waste into a gas that can be used to fuel electric generators.

Alisdair McLean, Plasco’s vice-president of strategic initiatives, said federal officials have suggested the long-awaited decision will be coming soon.

Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said a meeting was arranged with Plasco and Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Chuck Strahl about three weeks ago to bring him up to speed on the project.

“As you know the project is very complex, it’s kind of the first of its kind. So it was important that we briefed the minister on the specifics.”

Dreeshen said no timeline for a decision has been provided. “I haven’t heard anything lately. I’m just continuing to be in contact with both provincial and federal officials and trying to continue to work through the process.”

Without the infrastructure funding, the Central Alberta project will be scrubbed. Work done so far would be redirected towards other projects, said McLean.

In the meantime, preparatory work has already begun on the site next to the county’s Horn Hill Waste Transfer Site, a few kilometres east of Penhold.

“We have started doing some drilling at site, some geo-tech work so we can understand what the soil composition is and design the footings and so on for the equipment,” said McLean. Permit applications are also being prepared.

Impatience appears to be growing among the nine municipalities that have committed to sending some or all of their garbage to the facility.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling admitted frustration at the slow progress on the project on Monday shortly before being sworn in for his third term as mayor.

McLean said significant progress has been made in the last few months.

On the financial front, a $110-million equity placement was announced in July, led by a $100-million commitment from Los Angeles-based Ares Management LLC. That indicates the confidence investors have in the company and its gasification process, he said.

Another major step forward was taken when engineering giant SNC-Lavalin was brought on board.

“That’s huge for us,” he said. “We started working with them in February or March and they have been doing engineering design for us.”

Since then, SNC-Lavalin’s role has been expanded to include engineering, procurement and construction duties.

“They are going to do the engineering design, and then they are also going to ensure the thing gets built on schedule, on budget and they’re going to help ensure that thing operates properly.”

PCL, which has a corporate office in Edmonton, is expected to build the facility.

Between the investment and construction partners, Plasco has “a lot more resources moving this project forward than we did a year ago even,” he said. “So we’re far more capable today, with these partners, to push this thing forward than we were.”

Plasco hopes to start work on the site in March of next year. Commissioning the plant would start a year later with full operation by the fall of 2012.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com