A straw-fibre fuel pellet plant proposed for County of Stettler remains on track, says the company behind the project.
The county issued a news release on Friday saying that its development authority considered the application by Alberta BioBord to build a fuel pellet plant just northeast of the town incomplete as of Wednesday.
“The application has therefore been deemed refused,” says the county in a statement.
“This decision does not reflect any judgment by the county’s development authority on the merits of the application that was made by Alberta BioBord, but rather reflects the changing nature of their proposed development and the need for them to supply complete information about the proposed development, and make it available for public review and review by the development authority.”
The county says it looks forward to receiving and reviewing any future application from Alberta BioBord.
Company CEO George Clarke said the company asked for an extension because two of 21 additional requirements asked for by the county “were impossible to be met by that county-imposed deadline.”
A sharp-tailed grouse lekking audit could not be completed until May 25 because of a cold and wet spring. It will then take some time for Alberta Environment to review and sign off on the study as required by the county before the application is considered complete.
Clarke said the county also says AlbertaBioBord must complete public consultations on its completed application and to file a report on that feedback before filing its application for approval. Information on public open houses and town halls is expected to be released soon.
“So in essence, the County’s additional requirements were impossible to satisfy before the deadline they set. We are unsure as to why they ignored our extension request but aren’t concerned about having to refile as it only costs us an additional $300 filing fee,” said Clarke.
“If approved and passing all hurdles, we will proceed to construction this year as quickly as possible,” he added.
In early 2021, Alberta BioBord proposed a $36-million plant producing 300,000 tonnes of pellets a year in the first phase. It was hoped the first pellets could be coming off the line as early as last fall.
A second phase was to see the construction of a medium-density fibreboard plant using wheat straw as its feedstock. It was designed to manufacture 450 million square feet of fibreboard in a 750,000-square-foot plant. The total investment could have topped $1 billion, the company said in May 2021.
Clarke said the company has expanded the scope of the project’s first phase to include a natural gas co-generation plant to provide steam and electricity to the pellet operation. Excess heat and power could be used for a data centre, greenhouse or aquaculture facility.
As well, Alberta BioBord has reached an agreement with a major university research team to further develop energy-efficiency products based on straw.
“Our proprietary fuel pellet process helps make commercial development of their bio organic product commercially viable,” he said, adding more will be made public as part of a government announcement.
Clarke said word of the company’s plans has spread and they are already looking for a location to build a second plant.
“A number of Alberta counties have contacted us, asking us to consider building within their pre-approved industrial zones. We are determining which of them wouldn’t require the sharp-tail lekking survey and discussing with our largest investor their appetite to fund two concurrent builds instead of just the one in Stettler County.
Alberta BioBord first applied for a development permit for the development of a fuel pellet plant in Oct. 15, 2021. That application was considered incomplete on Oct 28 and the development authority asked for more information.
The county said in its release that Alberta BioBord was given until last Feb. 28 to submit the additional information required to process the permit. On Feb. 24, Alberta BioBord requested and received an extension to that deadline. The extension expired April 30.