New plant proposed for industrial park

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

A Calgary company looks to be serious about setting up a plant to produce fuel from unconventional sources near Slave Lake. Expander Energy has applications in with the M.D. of Lesser Slave River for the $30 million project, which it calls a ‘biomass/gas to liquids facility.’

According to a report in the Oct. 14 M.D. council agenda, Expander considers Mitsue “the ideal location” due to the availability of wood fibre, something called “additional biomass”, utilities, transportation infrastructure and land.

The report says the company expects to begin with 120 barrels per day in a “pilot project,” possibly increasing to 500 barrels per day, if the pilot works out.

Feedstock for the plant is expected to be “forest tree waste, pulp sludge, OSB and other municipal waste from regional landfills.”

The M.D. was asked to provide a letter of support and gladly complied.
“The development is a good news story for our municipality,” says the letter. “To say the least, we are very excited about this project and we welcome you to our municipality.”

Vanderwell Contractors is a partner in the project. Owner Ken Vanderwell says it has been in the works for a couple of years. The idea is hog fuel (mainly bark) from the sawmill would go into the making of the diesel, right next door.

How the decision to locate the plant at Mitsue came about is an interesting story in itself. Vanderwell says Expander had been looking at a location in B.C., initially, but that didn’t work out. In the meantime, local businessman Ray Stern made the connection between Expander and a likely supplier of waste wood – Vanderwell.

“They asked, ‘would you be interested? says Vanderwell, to which he replied: ’ Yes!”

Vanderwell’s has to truck its hog fuel to other facilities and in the proposed scenario, that expense would be eliminated.

Gord Crawford of Expander Energy tells The Leader the company hopes construction will start early next summer, with production to commence in 2022.

“We’re just finalizing financing for it,” he says.

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