Biodiesel plants seen as boon for Alberta

Canada’s biodiesel industry is about to get a boost with two new plants scheduled to be built in Alberta, and that’s seen as translating to good news for farmers seeking to diversify their revenue.

Lynn Jacobson, vice-president of Alberta’s Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP), said the announcement of Michigan-based The Power Alternative (TPA) and a consortium of Alberta financial backers building two biodiesel plants will be good for the rural Alberta economy.

The total capital cost for each plant is $30 million, with one to be built in the High Prairie region in the province’s northwestern Peace region, the other in Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton.

The creation of the two plants is a good step in the right direction in adding some value for the canola industry, he said.

The plants being built this winter will use lower-graded canola to create biodiesel, TPA chairman James Padilla Sr. said in a recent release.

The new plants are expected to create economic windfalls of about $200 million a year each, creating the potential for Alberta to become a North American leader in biodiesel, the company said.

The target is for the first of the two plants to be operational producing 66 million litres of biodiesel a year by no later than the end of 2012 or beginning in 2013, according to TPA’s release.

Besides the potential of using biodiesel for co-generation with coal plants, other opportunities for products made by the new plants may include creating aviation biofuel or biochemical products for farmers, TPA said.

With the new biodiesel plants coming, wheat acres could be lost as farmers will be more likely to grow canola, Jacobson said.

However, despite the market potential for the new biodiesel plants, farmers will be unwilling to grow canola for less money, he said.

The food market for canola will still drive values, rather than demand for biodiesel, said Jacboson.

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