Western Biodiesel fined for 2008 methanol release

By Erin Voegele | August 17, 2011

A court case in Canada regarding the 2008 release of methanol by a High River, Alberta-based biodiesel producer has finally been resolved. On Aug. 16, Alberta Environment announced that the Provincial Court of Alberta has fined Western Biodiesel Inc. $160,000 under the province’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for releasing wastewater containing methanol into the environment, and for providing false or misleading information to investigators.

According to Alberta Environment, Jason Freeman, a former manager at the plant, pled guilty to directing the release of contaminated wastewater and knowingly providing false or misleading information to investigators. He was sentenced to four months of house arrest.

A statement released by the Alberta Environment notes that Freeman directed workers to release the methanol-laden wastewater on Oct. 27, 2008. The flammable waste was released onto the ground at the back of Western Biodiesel’s property. The statement further explains that a welder, who was unaware of the release, ignited the wastewater the following day. While nobody was injured, Alberta Environment noted that Freeman denied that a release had occurred when investigators arrived in response to an anonymous complaint.

Biodiesel Magazine was unable to reach a representative of Western Biodiesel for comment on the court decision. A notice posted to the company’s website states that company’s facility is temporarily idle, but that operations could potentially restart in 2011.

The company did provide a statement to Biodiesel Magazine in late 2010, following the charges filed by Alberta Environment. In that statement, Western Biodiesel President and CEO Dean Cockshutt said that while his company did not respond correctly to the 2008 methanol release, it had since taken a variety of proactive actions to ensure similar problems are not repeated. He also noted that the engineers who designed and commissioned the plant had advised the plant’s operations manager that the waste water tank contained only distilled water, which was safe to release. For more information please see “Pending Litigation, Proactive Prevention.”


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