Waste Management invests in Enerkem as part of $53.8 million round

Kudos to Vincent Chornet. The president, CEO and co-founder of Montreal-based Enerkem (along with his father, Esteban) has in just a few years turned his company into a leading player in the emerging waste-to-fuel market. Today, Enerkem gained even more momentum, announcing it had secured $53.8 million in venture financing in a round that included Houston-based Waste Management, the continent’s top waste-management firm.

Enerkem uses a thermochemical fluidized-bed process to gasify municipal solid waste (organics, wood waste, plastics), demolition wood, and agricultural/forest residues. The resulting syngas is cleaned and, using a proven catalyst, can be turned into a variety of end products, including methanol, ethanol and high-value olefins (plastics). The company is in the process of building a waste-to-ethanol facility in Mississippi (75 million litres a year) and an Edmonton plant (36 million litres a year) that will also turn sorted municipal solid waste into ethanol. The Edmonton facility is being done in partnership with Greenfield Ethanol, Canada’s largest independent ethanol producer. Meanwhile, in Westbury, Quebec, the company has a commercial-scale demonstration facility that currently turns old wooden hydro poles into ethanol.

Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and BDR Capital, all existing investors, participated in the financing round with Waste Management, along with new investor Cycle Capital. “This financing round validates Enerkem’s business and advances our path towards leadership in the waste and advanced fuels markets,” said Chornet in a release. In an earlier story (July 2008) I wrote for Greentech Media, Chornet said that burning waste or burning the syngas created from waste is, well, a waste. Based on electricity and ethanol prices at the time, a company can make three times more revenue per tonne of processed waste compared to a plant that simply burns its syngas to generate electricity, he said. Chornet also said Enerkem’s process is profitable with oil at $50 a barrel and if the company can get a competitive tipping fee to take the garage.

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