I had the opportunity this week to visit a St. Marys Cement plant in the small and scenic town of St. Marys, Ontario. A subsidiary of Brazilian cement giant Votorantim Cimentos, the company is working with Toronto-based Pond Biofuels on a project that turns smokestack emissions from the plant into algae. The algae, based on a strain taken from the local Thames River, gobble up CO2, SOx, NOx and other pollutants that are piped into special algae photobioreactors, two of which are housed in a pilot facility located beside the plant. The algae are harvested and can be dried using low-grade waste heat from the cement plant’s kilns. The dried algae can then be burned in the plant’s kilns instead of petroleum coke, helping to reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions. Alternatively — and if the economics justify it — the algae can be processed into biodiesel and other green fuels/chemicals.
I decided, for the first time, to take a video camera with me and film a walkthrough of the pilot facility to give my readers a better sense of how this all works. I’m new to this whole video and movie editing game, but I did manage to put something decent together, which I post here as a YouTube upload. It’s nearly 10 minutes long, but if you’re interested in the process you may find it worth watching. Like I said, it’s my first time doing this — I would appreciate any constructive feedback.
When I wrote earlier about Pond Biofuels and its work with St. Marys Cement, I mentioned that Lafarge’s plan to burn biomass fuel in its cement kiln in Bath, Ontario, was on hold because of the financial difficulties of its Kingston-based partner, Performance Plants, which had bioengineered a variety of drought-resistant grass/tree species to grow on marginal farmlands. According to Lafarge, however, the project is continuing on course despite the troubles at Performance Plants. Here’s how Robert Cumming, manager of environmental affairs at Lafarge Canada, explained the situation in a recent e-mail: Continue reading Lafarge’s Ontario plant still on track for biomass burn in cement kilns→
We all know that making cement is an energy-intensive process, so when carbon prices are introduced in North America it’s going to have a major impact on an industry that quite literally lays at the foundation of our economy. In Ontario, cement maker St. Marys Cement — now part of Brazilian conglomerate Groupo Votorantim — has partnered with stealthy startup Pond Biofuels of Toronto on a project that, since last fall, has already started to capture CO2 from a cement plant in southwestern Ontario. It’s believed to be the first project of its kind in the world. Pond Biofuels, the three-year-old company that developed the processes and algae bioreactor technology behind the project, hopes to demonstrate that the system can be scaled up to accept the emissions from an entire plant or any other energy-intensive industrial facility. In the case of St. Marys, the algae will be harvested, dried using industrial waste heat, and then used to offset fossil fuels that are currently used in its cement kilns. In essense, the CO2 will be recycled over and over again. The company, which became a strategic investor in Pond Biofuels last year, is also investigating the idea of producing biodiesel from the algae that can be used to fuel its own truck fleet.
There are many algae technology companies out there, but it’s nice to see these two Ontario companies actually doing something outside of the lab in a way that directly meets the needs of industry. In fact, Pond Biofuels has its sights set on China as well. The company revealed in December that its St. Marys project had been approved as part of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate program. This means it will get funding to do a feasibility study that will assess the suitability of its technology for the cement industry in China.
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