|Concrete is poured this month for the second phase of the Hairy Hill integrated biorefinery. Photograph by: Growing Power Hairy Hill L.P., edmontonjournal.com|
The $50-million ethanol plant will be opened this fall, and use 110,000 metric tonnes of low-quality, high-starch feed grain from local farmers. This will be milled, cooked and processed by yeast and enzymes to yield 40 million litres of ethanol once distilled. The process also produces large amounts of high-quality cattle feed.
When combined with the existing biogas plant, the patented “Integrated bioRefinery” will be the world’s largest such facility, and produce the lowest “carbon footprint” ethanol in the world, said co-founder Evan Chrapko.
“It’s a loop, and we will now close the loop because we can use that kernel of grain three times,” he said.
“We start with the ethanol process and remove the starch, which is not needed by cattle anyway. That leaves behind the high protein, minerals, fats and fibre, and this nutrition goes to the cattle,” he adds.
The nutrients will be piped to the adjacent feed lot in liquid form so extra energy to dry the feed material is not needed.
“The cattle produce beef and manure, and there is still energy left in the manure.”
Currently, the feed lot produces 250 tonnes a day of manure to supply the biogas plant, and operates as any other in the province, with the exception that the manure heads to the biogas plant. The plant also uses sewage and waste from local industries such as a slaughterhouse and canola crushing plant into biogas and high-quality fertilizer.
The ethanol plant is part of a planned bio-waste energy centre near Vegreville called the BECii Clean Energy Centre. The biogas plant and the new ethanol plant will operate as the Growing Power Hairy Hill L.P., which will supply materials, heat and energy to BECii.
Chrapko said the fact the biogas plant was operating and would be the anchor tenant of BECii helped convince the federal and provincial governments to assist the project.
“This (BECii) will be a commercial scale-up site and not a research park. The industry is pockets and islands of well-intentioned companies and inventors not necessarily working in an integrated fashion,” he said when the project was announced a year ago.
Growing Power is currently looking for 25 staff to operate the new ethanol plant.
“This plant will allow some skilled people in this region to work close to home instead of having to head to Fort McMurray,” said Chrapko.