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Enerkem: Bioethanol from Municipal Solid Waste


Enerkem is Montreal, Canada based cellulosic ethanol producer company. Founded in the year 2000 it has earned reputation through its capacity to produce bioethanol thermochemically from municipal solid waste and other non recyclable wastes. Their technology  offers alternative to incineration and landfilling.

Enerkem’s Waste to Cellulosic ethanol Conversion Technology

Enerkem has developed thermochemical technology to convert non-recyclable municipal solid waste into cellulosic ethanol. The process involves sorting and shredding of the mixed waste and its conversion into syngas (mixture of carbon mono oxide and hydrogen) in a gassifier under high temperature and pressure. This is followed by cleaning and conditioning of syngas and its catalytic conversion into methanol which later can be converted into ethanol.

During the process two industrially very useful intermediates ‘syngas’ and ‘methanol’ are produced. This is  advantageous considering the high demand of syngas and methanol to produce renewable chemicals other than biofuels.

Enerkem Plants

Enerkem’s cellulosic ethanol plants are generally located on landfill sites or adjacent to the places where municipal solid waste sorting is done.

Enerkem Alberta Biofuels: Commercial plant at Edmenton, Canada
It is Enerkem’s first commercial biorefinery. It exclusively utilizes municipal solid waste to produce advanced cellulosic ethanol. It is a unique and large collaborative effort between Enerkem Inc., the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions.  The capacity of the plant is 10 million gallons per year biofuels and renewable chemicals by utilizing 1,00,000 metric tons of non recyclable and non compostable waste per year as feedstock.

The facility was inaugurated in June 2014. The production of advanced cellulosic ethanol will start by the end of 2015.

Under development
A similar project of the same capacity as the one in Edmonton, Canada is under development in Pontotoc, Mississippi, United states at the Three Rivers landfill site. For this the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi (TRSWMA) will supply the municipal solid waste (MSW) to Enerkem Mississippi Biofuels LLC, a U.S. affiliate of Enerkem Inc.

Another plant to produce cellulosic ethanol from waste is under development at Varennes, Québec, Canada. This is a joint venture of Enerkem Inc. and GreenField Ethanol Inc.

Demonstration plant Enerkem also has a precommercial demonstration facility of 1.3 million gallons per year capacity at Westbury, Quebec, Canada. It is located near to a sawmill that recycles used utility and telephone poles.  Enerkem converts the non recyclable portion of these poles into methanol and then into ethanol.

In 2014 Enerkem  and AkzoNobel, a Canadian company, announced its partnership with 4 regional partners for putting up waste to biofuel facility in Netherlands. The partnership has expanded since then and eight new partners have joined for this collective efforts to put up Europe’s first such plant. The talks and research are on and the planned facility may come up either in Rotterdam or Delfzijl.

Enerkem and industrial partners in China have agreed to jointly build municipal solid waste-to-biofuels and chemicals facilities in China. The locations of the proposed plants are yet to be disclosed.


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