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Final Thought: September-October 2014

Like many Northern Ontario communities, when Sault Ste. Marie’s 100-year-old paper mill went into receivership due to the changes in market demand for paper-based products, the city’s leadership was uncertain about the future landscape of biomass and the role it would play.


October 1, 2014
By Christina Coutu

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Like many Northern Ontario communities, when Sault Ste. Marie’s 100-year-old paper mill went into receivership due to the changes in market demand for paper-based products, the city’s leadership was uncertain about the future landscape of biomass and the role it would play. The community had a long-standing history of forestry expertise, yet lacked clear direction on the use of the abundant wood resources accessible throughout the region. More recently, the Sault has seen significant growth in numerous smart energy projects including wind and solar farms, and the development of a cogeneration and waste-to-energy plant. These projects are in all stages of development – conception, research and development, pilot projects, commercialization and full-scale operations. The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) along with various community partners, commissioned the Smart Energy Strategy, a report which identified attracting a biotechnology project using bio fibre as one of the pillars to the plan, and addresses the issue of how to best utilize the ample and sustainable wood supply from Northern Ontario forests and the renewable supply of biofibre feedstock in the area.

Continuing with this momentum, SSMIC released a Request for Proposal earlier this year with the purpose of attracting a wood-based biotechnology project to the Sault, and aggressively reached out to technology developers. The intent of the RFP was to study the supply base and implement a project which would lead to the construction of a commercial or demonstration plant in the city, in turn stimulating local economic growth and creating jobs. SSMIC received strong proposals from companies worldwide. The proposals were reviewed by a committee composed of forestry, biotechnology, business and economic development experts. Among the proposals, pyrolysis-based technology from Battelle was determined to be the closest to shovel-ready and best initiative to meet the community’s desire to implement a bioenergy project.

Battelle is now engaged in a detailed study for the implementation of a fast biopolyol unit in the Sault with the aim to produce biopolyol, which will be sold to produce foams, insulation, coatings, and other high-margin commercial products. Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, managing more than 22,000 professional, technical and management experts worldwide, has created a plan for a profitable micro-refinery business with multiple markets, and a scale-up approach to biofuels, which reduces investor risk by generating early revenues from biopolyol production. There is significant market potential for polyol globally with demand for over 15 billion pounds to be used in applications such as building and construction, furniture, appliances, packaging and textiles.

Battelle proposes to develop the implementation plan for the installation of a pyrolysis plant in the Sault Ste. Marie region, which will process approximately 20 dry tons per day of biomass to produce bio oil, and will be converted by a partner to produce 10.5 million pounds of biopolyol per year.

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In addition to the bio fibre project, the Sault Ste. Marie Energy Innovation Hub was created as a community-branding initiative and is poised to propel the image of Sault Ste. Marie as an evolutionary energy community with a prosperous and sustainable future.

The Sault is aggressively pursuing new business ventures and projects and has created a video, website and various print media pieces to showcase the energy assets and expertise of the region. In addition, the Energy Opportunities Conference: Making Things Happen! is taking place November 4-6, 2014, and focuses on: Making Energy Innovation Happen; Advanced Bioenergy; Project Execution; Commercialization; Smart Energy; and, New Energy Technology. An impressive list of industry experts and biomass speakers have been confirmed including Kathyayani Mahadevan from Battelle, Pernille Overbye from Ramboll Energy, Murray Mclaughlin from the Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and biomass experts from Finland.


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Christina Coutu is the Smart Energy Strategy Project Manager at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. For more information about energy projects in Sault Ste. Marie and the Energy Opportunities Conference, please contact Jason Naccarato, the Vice President of Development, at 705-942-7927 ext. 3121 or jnaccarato@ssmic.com


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