Slave Lake biomass project gains approval

The Slave Lake Biomass / Gas to Liquids project proposed by Expander Energy Inc. and Vanderwell Contractors (1971) Ltd has received its environmental permit from Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP).

The AEP permit is the last significant permit required to enable the construction and operation of the project. Once operational, the facility adjacent to Vanderwell’s sawmill site in the Mitsue Industrial Park will be Canada’s first Biomass Gas to Liquids plant .

The plant will produce over 6.5 million litres per year of low-carbon intensity, clean-burning synthetic diesel fuel (trade named SynDiesel) made from sawmill and forestry residuals. The plant will also produce marketable volumes of hydrogen byproducts.

The plant will use Expander’s patented process, and wood waste from Vanderwell’s operations as feedstock to create fuel that will meet Canada’s new Clean Fuel Standard to 2030 and beyond. This is a significant step in meeting both the provincial and federal mandates that require diesel fuel to achieve progressively more stringent carbon intensity limits.

To date, nearly all low-carbon-intensity diesel fuel has been supplied from Asia and the U.S. due to lack of domestic supply. The Slave Lake Biomass to Diesel facility will be one of the first facilities in Canada to supply this need domestically.

Construction to begin this year

The project is well under way with construction expected to begin in late 2021. The first phase is a commercial demonstration plant producing 6.5 million litres per year of SynDiesel followed by a commercial expansion to over 20 million litres per year. 

The proposed 30-million-dollar plant will create local construction jobs as well as permanent operating and maintenance jobs.

“Vanderwell is very excited about being involved in this innovative and very important project and to have it here in our backyard in Slave Lake,” stated president Ken Vanderwell.

“There is no doubt renewable low-carbon intensity fuels are going to be a large component in the future of the energy industry and building the first such plant in Canada here in Slave Lake will be a major accomplishment.”

“We couldn’t be happier to have Vanderwell as a partner,” said Expander CEO, Steve Price.

“As a cornerstone family-owned business in Slave Lake they bring credibility and capability that are essential to making this project a success.”

After a successful commercial demonstration, Expander and Vanderwell are planning to utilize additional wood waste in the area and to examine alternative feedstocks. These could include other forestry residuals, landfill material and municipal wastewater solids, and others. 

Expander anticipates that the Slave Lake area has a biomass availability that could support a facility producing 200 million litres of SynDiesel per year.

In addition, hydrogen is becoming increasingly important as a promising fuel to reduce the use of fossil fuels in select sectors and is key to moving Alberta and Canada toward the stated goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Hydrogen will serve as an early building block in creating a cleaner provincial and federal energy economy.

“This is about converting waste material into a high-quality renewable low-carbon intensity fuel and a valuable hydrogen product that can help both the environment and create a new industry in Alberta and Canada,” Ken Vanderwell added.

Expander Energy Inc. is a privately held energy company located in Calgary.