Cielo Waste Solutions Corp., a company based in Alberta, an oil-rich Western province of Canada, seeks to scale up a refining process that transforms plastics, wood and other fuel refuse into diesel.
The plant could produce up to 1,000 litres of diesel an hour, and the company is expanding capacity to double its output throughout this year. It ultimately aims for bigger modular plants designed to pump out up to 4,000 litres an hour.
The company pulverizes the refuse into fine granules. After that, it uses thermal catalytic depolymerization, liquefying it under atmospheric pressure and low heat. Then it mixes in with a catalyst, transforming the material into a distillate used to make fuels.
The technology was initially introduced in Germany and later imported to Canada. The company also adds a hydrogen unit to cut the sulphur content of the fuel to below standards accepted across Canada. This initiative is conducted in collaboration with the University of Calgary.
Cielo has a similar production cost as traditional biodiesel, but seeks gains in feedstock costs, which it sees as a fraction of the equivalent.
The technology used at the plant has yet to be proven on a large commercial scale. However, the enterprise could be a step towards solving major environmental problems, such as reducing household and industrial waste, cutting methane emissions related to landfill and producing diesel and aviation fuel that meet standards for minimal sulphur content.
The endeavor has gained some traction with investors. Cielo’s market cap has hit $790-million, even though it has yet to show any earnings. The company is up about 20 percent since its shares were listed on the TSX Venture Exchange on June 24.
Cielo has a deal with Canadian Pacific Railway, one of the largest railroad operators in North America, to take used railway ties for its new Medicine Hat plant.
The company further plans to build plants in a joint venture with Renewable U Energy Inc., an Alberta-based company, with each future plant set to cost up to $50 million.
Canada’s biggest oil-producing provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, are expected to experience the fastest growth in renewables energy capacity by 2023.
Despite its dependence on oil, Alberta is gradually transforming its energy mix. This will involve different approaches to energy, like Cieolo’s waste-to-diesel endeavor, as well as other renewables options.