Sarnia, Ontario’s Comet Biorefining will be operating a new $70 million commercial-scale biorefinery facility for converting corn stover into cellulosic sugar, which can then be used in making plastics, lubricants, paints and other forms of bio-based products.
The plant is forecast to come online in 2018.
Corn stover represents about half of a crop yield and consists of whatever part of the corn plant doesn’t end up in the human food chain, including the stalk, leaf, husk, and cob, and often ends up as cattle feed.
Comet Biorefining will partner with the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative (CSPC), which was formed two years ago to develop a sustainable agricultural biomass supply chain, and will own a 40% equity stake in the biorefinery.
“We are extremely pleased to be partnering with CSPC as we both enter the next phase to develop this value chain for producing dextrose from corn stover and wheat straw,” said Comet founder Andrew Richard.
The CSPC will be recruiting growers in the southwestern Ontario region to supply 75,000 tonnes of biomass, mostly corn stover and wheat straw, required for the facility, and has the support of farmer grain handling and retail co-ops Agris Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative, as well as organizations like BioIndustrial Innovation Canada and Quebec’s La Coop Fédérée.
In 2013, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture commissioned a report produced by the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, called “Development of a Business Case for Cornstalks to Bioprocessing Venture”, to evaluate the project’s viability.
Sarnia is well equipped for bioprocessing plants, having been a petrochemical industry hub for more than 70 years, with all of the infrastructure and a skilled workforce ready to be converted to cleantech.
Comet Biorefining is based at the Stiller Centre in the Western University Research Park, and will build its biomass plant at the TransAlta Energy Park, which was once occupied by a very large Dow Chemical complex.
“The development of the bio industrial economy and the biohybrid cluster in Sarnia produces a great opportunity for local producers to be a part of the supply chain,” said Bioindustrial Innovation Canada executive director Sandy Marshall. “It’s a way to generate more revenue for the producer and (for the producer to) be part of the emerging bio-economy.”
Comet Biorefining’s proprietary cellulosic dextrose technology converts non-food biomass, such as agricultural and forest material, into high-purity dextrose sugar, and has renewable biochemical and biofuel applications, including replacing petro-based products in a range of industries.
Founded in 2009, Comet builds, owns and operates its own facilities strategically licenses its technology to select partners to meet the growing demand for bio-based products.
The company operates a demonstration scale plant in Rotondella, Italy, owned by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy, and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).
In April, Comet Biorefining signed an offtake agreement with Montreal-based bio-succinic acid producer BioAmber (NYSE:BIOA), which has a manufacturing facility in Sarnia, to supply high-purity dextrose.
Earlier this year, Sustainable Development Technology Canada awarded a $10.9 million grant to Comet Biorefining to help with the construction of its plant.