January 22, 2012

Local biofuels company gets welcome support from province

Scarborough company working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industry

Local biofuels company gets welcome support from province. Pond Biofuels CEO Steve Martin, left, displays oil created by algae to Scarborough Centre MPP and Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid and Scarborough-Guildwood MPP and Minister of Consumer Services Margarett Best at the company's east Scarborough location. Staff photo/DANIELLE MILLEY
A Scarborough company working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industry received some welcome support from the province Thursday.

Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid paid a visit to Pond Biofuels Thursday, Jan. 19, morning for a tour and to announce an investment of $1.9 million.

"That's the least we can do ... This is 10 new jobs here in Scarborough, which is wonderful. That is today, this new technology has the potential to create hundreds of jobs," Duguid said.

Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Margarett Best was also on hand for the tour in her riding.

Pond Biofuels has been piloting a new, high-tech carbon dioxide absorption system at St. Marys Cement in southwestern Ontario. The new system will reduce GHG emissions (a major cause of climate change) by absorbing raw smokestack emissions to grow algae, which can be converted into biodiesel fuel and pellets that act as a renewable coal substitute.

Steven Martin, the company's CEO, said the government investment will be used to take the project to the next level at the St. Marys facility.

"We're going to increase the scale and output of the facility to that more closely aligned with a commercial facility," he said.

Company staff split their time between the office and lab in Scarborough, and the facility in St. Marys, so the investment directly creates local jobs. Duguid said the support aligns with the province's vision of making Ontario a hub for research and innovation.

"It's an incredible piece of innovation that has the potential to have ground breaking importance both on reducing pollution, and building a healthy future and economic opportunity," he said.

The company was founded by Martin and president Max Kolesnik four and a half years ago. Much of the research around producing energy from algae was done in the United States as part of the Aquatic Species Program, which was cancelled in the late 1990s.

Martin said the difference was they took the information and set to work right away using untreated smokestack gas to feed the algae, which has worked very well. The partnership with St. Marys made that possible.

"There was a critical confluences of events," Martin said. "We were lucky."

Martin Vroegh, the environmental manager, at St. Marys Cement was already trying to find a way to reduce the environmental impact of the company before he met with Pond so it was a natural fit.

"These guys said the magic words, 'we can get rid of your CO2 and it won't cost you anything'," he said.

The cement industry is one of the biggest GHG emitters. For every tonne of cement produced, three quarters of a ton of CO2 is released.

"When our second most manufactured product is deemed to be undesirable it starts to become an extremely problematic thing, not just from an environmental prospective, but also a triple bottom line perspective," Vroegh said.

The company not only turned over its St. Mary's plant for the pilot project, but it's also invested in Pond.

Pond has attached 1,000 feet of stainless steel pipe to the smokestack at St. Marys Cement that leads to the algae containment area where all of the CO2 used in production comes from the smokestack (the algae also consume the nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide produced at the plant). Algae grows quickly and can consume almost twice its weight in carbon dioxide.

Not only does the technology allow for carbon to be captured, but the resulting algae biomass can be used for energy production in the form of biodiesel or a coal replacement.

The algae produced is 11 per cent oil, of which Pond's technology can extract 90 per cent. One full-scale project at St. Marys could create 250,000 tonnes of algae, which could produce 29 million litres of biodiesel fuel.

"We're on the cusp of producing the fuel," Martin said.

Pond anticipates progressing to a full-scale commercial facility at St. Marys by 2014; Martin said they're also in discussion with steel plants.

Original post available here.

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