Last week players from CLIB2021, Sustainable Resources Development, Weyerhaeuser, Otoka and the Town of Drayton Valley came together to get up to speed on a study for the Bio-Mile in Drayton Valley that’s underway. CLIB2021 member company nova-Institut and Eco SYS along with the University of Alberta have partnered to produce a study that will outline the bio-energy possibilities that could be supported in Drayton Valley’s Bio-Mile on syngas.
Michael Carus, managing director of nova Institut, Achim Raschka with nova Institut and Ulrich März with Eco SYS travelled from Germany last week to offer an interim update on a study on the feasibilty of the use of bio-based synthesis gas, which was funded by the provincial government and the University of Alberta’s Biorefining Conversions Network.
“It’s not so easy to make good projects on the telephone and email,” said Carus of the reason for the trip. “It’s important to meet the people.” And that’s what they were doing during their short, but productive sojourn.
Opportunities of the syngas production
Nova-Institut and Eco SYS are handling three parts of the four-part study that includes what products/chemicals can be produced by synthesis gas, what are the processes needed to create those products and a market analysis of who might buy them. The University of Alberta Mechanical Engineering Department is looking at the additional part of the study – techno-economic evaluation – which means they’ve been looking at the overall costs of harvesting, processing and producing the products and determining how much the product would need to be sold for.
Amit Kumar, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department, has been working in the area of renewable energy and biomass products for more than a decade. “The exciting part about why are you doing it is it’s environmentally friendly,” said Kumar. “That’s why this area is very exciting.” Unlike other processes used, at the end of an 80-100 year cycle bio-energy is carbon neutral, he said.
To this point in the study nova Institut and Eco SYS have been compiling all the technical information about the possibilities for processes and products in the Bio-Mile. Now that they’ve reached that point they need to tailor their findings to fit with the vision and plans of those who will be building the Bio-Mile, including companies like Otoka, and the town.
The Germans needed answers to questions such as how risk-taking do companies want to be with their operations and what timeframe are they looking at. Processes and products for a turn key operation will be different from those that might be possible as bio-energy technology develops in the next few years. The support of the municipality and other government partners is also key.
“These are the things we have to learn here to give us the right direction,” said Carus. “To find out what fits with the industrial and political framework.” Mayor Moe Hamdon said the town remains committed to fulfilling its role to see the Bio-Mile take shape. “I think our role has always been… creating the strategic partnerships,” he said. “We want to be in there to encourage investment – Otoka being one of the main ones we’re dealing with right now.”
By Tuesday, Carus said answers to some of the important questions were already having an impact. The group had already met with their counterparts from the University of Alberta and made some adjustments, and the feedback from the Tuesday morning presentations would also help narrow the focus. “You can’t make our study just from literature, you have to see what’s really happening here,” said Carus.
The group will take that information and, over the next few months come up with a number of proposals of what will work best for the Bio-Mile. The final study is expected to be presented in the spring. “I’m hoping when it’s done that investors will be able to take a look at the technology’s economy and identify some opportunities,” said Hamdon, noting Drayton Valley is on the ‘leading edge’ when it comes to exploring the bioindustry.
Hamdon sees the study acting as a document that will identify opportunities not just now, but into the future, “when the technology catches up with the ideas,” he said.
Bio-mile presentation (pdf-file)
Source: Drayton Valley Western Review, 2010-02-02.