By Collin Gallant
Alberta Newspaper Group
An effort to build a bio-diesel refinery near Dunmore is progressing, according to Cielo Waste Solutions, which purchased a similar development company in the fall and plans to close on a land purchase near Medicine Hat this month.
The goal, to build a multi-million-dollar facility to process railway ties into what the company calls “renewable diesel” was first announced five years ago, but lagged during the pandemic and corporate restructuring.
As well, the company struggled on the final mile of developing what was billed as a revolutionary patented process to convert organic waster, namely wood pulp, into bio-diesel for resale to meet clean emissions standards.
The acquisition of Expander Energy, including two projects and their certified process that will be employed at Cielo sites, will allow the company’s work on finalizing its own technology to get underway,
“It’s allowed us to move to project development from research and development,” said Ryan Jackson, the Medicine Hat-based CEO of Cielo, who says a go-ahead decision on the local facility could be made by the early summer.
“We’ve been working towards that end goal … We have ready-to-go technology that Expander can provide and it’s complimentary to Cielo’s (process) if we get to a point where we’d integrate it if needed.
“We’re able to proceed with existing market-ready technology to create a renewable diesel fuel that’s derived from railway ties.”
In 2019 the company announced plans to build a series of facilities to convert a wide variety of organic waste, like ag and forestry byproduct or even municipal trash collections, into bio-diesel fuel to supply Canadian fuel producers and meet emissions standards.
In 2021, the Dunmore site was heavily promoted during local site tours with investors and provincial politicians, but in 2022, Jackson – then heading up an investment partner Renewable U – moved over to lead Cielo.
Since then, the company sold land it held for a similar joint venture in Fort Saskatchewan announcing the focus on an initial facility at the Dunmore commission.
At the same time Cielo and Renewable U – which includes large local investors- announced new target dates and the purchase of Expander Energy, including a syngas facility near Carseland, Alta., southeast of Calgary.
That facility will become a joint venture, connected to a Cielo processor, and the facility’s engineering plans form the basis of an eventual Dunmore plant, said Jackson.
“Our expectation is that we’ll achieve a final investment decision in the second quarter (of 2024); the engineering plans and pricing and a number of other steps are underway or will be in the next couple months.”
Initial production is touted between 600 to 1,000 barrels per day from processed rail ties provided under an exiting agreement with CPKC railways and which would be delivered to the site, near the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 41 N, at a rail siding east of Dunmore.