Southern Alberta waste refinery turning trash into ‘high-grade, low-cost’ biodiesel

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Alberta company turns trash into diesel fuel
WATCH: A refinery in Aldersyde is using cutting edge technology to turn waste into diesel fuel. As Tracy Nagai reports, the company has plans to build four additional refineries by late 2020 – Jul 11, 2019

A new refinery set to open in southern Alberta is aiming to change the way household waste is recycled and reduce the carbon footprint at the same time.

Cielo Waste Solutions is set to open its first refinery in Aldersyde, Alta., where it will turn Albertans’ landfill garbage into renewable diesel fuel.

The company, which is headquartered in Red Deer, said on Thursday it’s “Canada’s first producer of renewable diesel that is fully compatible with the federal and provincial-mandated renewable fuels regulations, which require the blending of renewables with fossil diesel used in transportation fuel.”

After its July 11 grand opening at Aldersyde, Cielo has plans to open four more refineries across the province, in the municipalities of Brooks, Calgary, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat.

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“These facilities together will divert some 128,000 tonnes of waste per year from Canada’s landfills,” Cielo said.

Cielo said to put that into perspective, Canada generates about 31-million tonnes of garbage in a year.

“There’s no one in the industry, that we know of in the world, that’s doing what we’re doing,” spokesperson Don Allen said.

“We can use orange peels, grass clippings, we can use tires. There are seven different types of plastics that go into a landfill, only one or two are sellable if you can find a market — we can use all seven. If you can burn or liquefy it, we can use it.”

What is renewable diesel fuel?

According to Cielo, their technology creates “high-grade, low-cost renewable diesel fuel” that differs from other traditional biofuels that come from food sources, because Cielo’s product is more environmentally friendly and economically sustainable.

Cielo also said its product can be blended and sold on the government’s mandated renewable diesel market. It also produces virtually no emissions.

“I want to make an impact,” Allen said.

“I want to be able to look at my grandkids and get them proud that we’re doing something here to go after some of the landfill issues.”

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The refinery uses chemicals and heat to change the composition of the waste to collect diesel carbon molecules. Those molecules are then processed into renewable transportation diesel, jet diesel and naptha fuel, the company said.

Government officials on board

Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard said the city is eager to have the facility open.

“I think Grand Prairie is an entrepreneurial place and we lead the province in entrepreneurialism, innovation and so this is just a perfect fit,” Allard said. “I would love to see the jobs come into the city as well.”

Calgary councillors are also looking forward to the opportunity of the city leading the way in alternative ways of recycling.

“It would be nice to try to have a local company deal with more of our waste stream as possible,” Councillor Peter Demong said.

“One of the things I would love to see is Calgary, and Alberta in general, to become a centre of recycling excellence.”

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Cielo said when the refineries are built — which is expected to be by late 2020 — each one will produce about 2,000 litres of renewable fuel per hour.

The company has patents pending elsewhere in Canada and in the U.S. Cielo is also working on getting regulators to adjust its restrictions on allowing plastics to be included in the blend for transportation diesel.

“Such policy changes would reduce the amount of renewable fuels made from food sources that Canada currently imports to meet its mandated requirements,” Cielo said.

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