Garbage – an untapped source of advanced biofuels

Technology developed by Enerkem can turn residual waste (remaining after recycling and composting) into advanced biofuels, paving the way for a new generation of clean fuels and energy.

Instead of occupying space in landfills, waste is now becoming a clean power source for cars, trucks and buses. Diverting waste also reduces methane gas from landfills – a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

At the Edmonton Waste Management Centre industry, government and media viewed the technology that produces alternative fuels and chemical feedstocks by converting non-recycled plastics and biomass.

The tour was sponsored by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), the American Chemistry Council and Alberta Plastics Recycling Association in Association with the Annual Conference of the Recycling Council of Alberta and with the support of the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Centre of Excellence.

“This event highlights the fact that there are now technologies in use in North America that allow us to treat waste as a resource” said CPIA president Greg Wilkinson.

According to Wilkinson, “We hope to demonstrate that proactively managing residual materials within the context of an integrated system means we can find new uses for non-recycled plastics while on the road to steadily increasing landfill diversion. These technologies may include the conversion of solid waste to biofuels and chemicals or re-capturing the energy for electricity and heating.”

Edmonton is unique in North America as it hosts one of the few fully integrated waste management facilities on the continent. The operation is expected to help the city increase its residential landfill waste diversion rate from 60 to 90 percent – a tremendous municipal success story.

At the end of their life plastics can have valuable future roles, as an energy source or to be reprocessed into other products. Plastics are too valuable to waste and initiatives and partnerships such as this one are a prime example of what can and is being done to divert plastics and other materials from landfill.

The Waste-to-Biofuels process:

  • The residue materials are shredded and fed into a gasifier.
  • The gasification process converts carbon-rich residues into a syngas.
  • The syngas is cleaned and converted into high-value, market-ready fuels and chemicals.

Products such as methanol can be sold directly or used as intermediate products in the creation of other products such as ethanol, synthetic diesel, dimethyl ether and synthetic gasoline.