P.E.I. agency backed for beet ethanol plant

A company set up to develop a commercially viable way of using Prince Edward Island beets as an ethanol feedstock has been backed to build a demonstration-scale processing plant.

Atlantec BioEnergy Corp., which for years has spearheaded a beet ethanol plan, on Friday was confirmed as receiving $340,512 from the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) for the project. The province’s Innovation PEI agency will put up $1.8 million in "loans, grants and labour rebates."

The company recently bought a facility at Cornwall, just west of Charlottetown, and is now renovating that building for its demonstration-scale equipment.

The facility is expected to be complete in January, the company said in a provincial release.

"This new facility will be active in the production of ethanol from sugar beets and will serve as a working model to demonstrate the ethanol-making process to future customers interested in Atlantec BioEnergy Corp.’s ability to deliver industrial-scale facilities," provincial Innovation and Advanced Learning Minister Allen Roach said in the same release.

"Our support for this facility will add to the export potential for Atlantec BioEnergy Corp. but also for the many Island suppliers who play a role in this project."

Atlantec had proposed a beet ethanol plant for the province as far back as 2008, going so far as to contract P.E.I. farmers to grow its beets.

Its plans were put on hold that spring after a provincial committee warned that beets, as an energy crop, would need up to 40,000 acres a year to support a commercial-scale fuel plant.

But beets weren’t likely to integrate well in P.E.I.’s potato rotation and might thus displace crops grown on the province’s remaining 157,000 acres of cropland, the environmental and renewable industries committee said in 2008.

The company said at the time it would possibly have to take its full-scale proposal to some other jurisdiction.

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