Enerkem Heads to Mississippi for Biofuel Plant

enerkem_logoIf you live in Mississippi, your garbage could soon be turned into ethanol. Montreal-based Enerkem said today that it’s heading south for its next commercial-scale plant, with plans to build a 20-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Pontotoc, Miss.

Enerkem said it expects the $250 million project, which includes the cost of an upstream municipal solid waste recycling and pre-treatment center, will be able to convert about 60 percent of the trash that comes into the Three Rivers landfill, which handles garbage from the counties of Calhoun, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc, and Union in Mississippi.

Enerkem said its plant will go up next to the landfill, taking in 189,000 tons of unsorted municipal solid waste annually under a preliminary deal that the company signed with the Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority of Mississippi. Financial terms of that deal were not disclosed.

This is Enerkem’s first move into the U.S.; the company told us in January that it was looking at the possibility of a project in the States, as well as another plant in Canada. At the time, Enerkem, which is backed by Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and BDR Capital, also said it was seeking more financing.

The Mississippi project, which will be constructed, owned, and operated by Enerkem, is a big jump from the company’s first commercial-scale plant, a 1.3-million gallon facility in Westbury, Quebec. In January, the company said the Westbury plant, which will make ethanol from used utility poles, was within a few months of starting production. The company also has plans for a 10 million-gallon plant in Edmonton, Alberta, in partnership with Toronto’s GreenField Ethanol that will get also feedstock from a landfill, just like the Mississippi facility.

But the Mississippi plant won’t just be running on garbage; it’s also expected to use wood residues from regional forest and agricultural operations, construction and demolition waste, and treated wood. And as for those “green jobs” we’ve been hearing so much about, Enerkem says the Mississippi plant will create 150 long-term direct and indirect jobs, as well as an additional 300 jobs over the construction and startup phases. We contacted Enerkem to find out when those jobs might be starting, but the company has yet to release any details on a timeline for the project.

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