Benefuel plans to build a 20 MMgy biodiesel plant in Ontario

By Ron Kotrba | April 04, 2018

Biodiesel technology developer Benefuel Inc. is exploring construction of a new 20 MMgy biodiesel plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. With a new investment from Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, Benefuel is working to complete the engineering phase in the coming months before breaking ground by end of year, said Rob Tripp, CEO of Benefuel.

Tripp said his company is evaluating a site at a business park in Sarnia for the new project.

“We’re going through the usual process,” Tripp said. “We have to fully vet the location, but it’s a good facility with existing utilities and infrastructure in place. It’s easier to set something up there than in a rural location.”

Tripp told Biodiesel Magazine one of Benefuel’s largest investors, Suncor Energy, operates an ethanol facility and a petroleum refinery in Sarnia, which may provide distillers corn oil feedstock from ethanol production and could utilize the finished product in their established distribution channels as a compliance tool.

Benefuel’s Ensel technology has been demonstrated for nearly two years at a 50 MMgy biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska. The solid acid catalyst combines esterification of high free fatty acid feedstocks and transesterification of triglycerides into a single step. The novel process is said to eliminate waste, improve process efficiency and expand feedstock options. The Nebraska plant, Duonix Beatrice, is a joint venture between Benefuel and Flint Hill Resources.

The new 20 MMgy plant in Sarnia will also employ Benefuel’s Ensel technology, but the plant will be designed on a modular basis.

“After almost two years of operation of a large-scale demonstration plant in Nebraska, we are incorporating those operational learnings into an enhanced, modular refinery design that will serve as the foundation for our growth here in Sarnia and abroad,” Tripp said. “The modular design will allow us to develop projects faster, with lower costs and higher quality.”

Tripp said Canada’s development of a Clean Fuel Standard, which to some degree will resemble California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, will provide a strong market incentive for use of Benefuel’s biodiesel, one of the lowest carbon fuels available.

BIC established the Centre for Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry Innovation initiative program in 2016. The nonprofit says the program acts as a hub for the commercialization of sustainable chemistry and biobased innovation. BIC encourages biobased start-ups and sustainable chemistry companies to participate in this program to help remove barriers to commercialization and investments.

“Ontario is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its transportation fuel pool,” said Sandy Marshall, executive director of BIC. “We recognize the need for low carbon transportation fuels and Benefuel provides an important step forward to meet these goals.”

“We’re one of the few renewable fuels companies to recently get a commercial facility up and running—and live to tell about it,” Tripp told Biodiesel Magazine. “We want to build on our momentum, knowledge and learning. The market is better today than it was 10 years ago.”

Tripp said he anticipates the plant to be operational in 2020. 

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