|Second beet plant anticipated|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Garrett Simmons|
|Tuesday, 19 February 2013 23:55|
A second sugar-beet processing plant is on the drawing board for southern Alberta.
At the annual general meeting of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers yesterday morning, Medicine Hat MP LaVar Payne announced an investment to help demonstrate the viability of using beets in the production of sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals.
The investment of nearly $600,000 will help the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) and a company the organization is partnering with, S2G BioChem, study the use of beets in the production of sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals. Bio-glycol, a renewable and sustainable alternative to traditional petrochemicals, that can be used to produce a wide variety of goods including plastics, polyester fibre and resin, would be the main product.
According to S2G president and CEO Mark Kirby, the government money will help go towards perfecting the process.
“We have a pilot plant in Vancouver where we’re bringing in beets now,” he said last week in Lethbridge, as he added S2G has already invested $5 million into the project. “This will help us do that work.”
Kirby said the technology has already been proven elsewhere, as a plant in China uses the same process, with a feedstock of corn glucose instead of raw sugar beets.
The Vancouver company, in business since 2009, is continuing to develop the technology to commercialize the use of sugars to make various biochemicals, according to the S2G CEO, who added conversations with southern Alberta sugar beet growers in 2011 led to a partnership now on the verge of a breakthrough.
“We’re interested in working with any kind of sugars,” said Kirby. “We’re looking for a good, reliable, cost-effective source of sugar.”
He added sugar beets have never been used for this process, as he mentioned issues of yields, productivity, processing challenges and the economics surrounding it all have all provided positive results.
“We’re making sure we have a solid business case here and that it makes economic sense. We didn’t want to be dependent on government subsidies. We want to make sure we’re providing good value for the growers and a good return on the plant and for the equipment used to process this.”
That plant will be somewhere in southern Alberta, Kirby added, as the sugar beets are grown here along with other feedstocks the plant would require, such as straw, as he mentioned biodiesel producers in Alberta would also benefit, as S2G could use the glycerine waste created from the creation of biodiesel.
Kirby went on to say the business case is strong, since the plant would produce glycol used to produce a variety of products already on the market, such as plastic bottles, polyester fibres, resins and fiberglass, along with heat-exchange products, antifreeze, personal-care products and detergents.
“The one thing we like about this technology is we’re not trying to invent a new market,” said Kirby. “What we’ll be producing is the same as the current glycol products, and the users like that. This is something they can drop in that performs in the exact same manner, but it has substantial advantage.”
The difference, he pointed out, is these products would be created through a more environmentally-friendly process that would be more cost effective than petrochemicals, with an eye towards long-term substantiality. The goal would be to produce 100,000 tones per year of glycol, according to Kirby, which would amount to $100 million in annual revenues.
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