Tougher environmental rules helped land biodiesel refinery

Troy Shantz

Ottawa’s move to reduce carbon emissions by legislating cleaner fuels was a strong incentive for a Texas company to set up shop in Sarnia, it CEO says.

Benefuel Inc. recently secured a site in the Arlanxeo bio-industrial park on Vidal Street for a new biodiesel refinery that will create about 45 jobs, Rob Tripp told The Journal.

“Sarnia’s got a very significant base of resources. They’re all very skilled and high quality and we’re looking to have the plant fabricated, installed and all the construction, really, come out of the Sarnia area.”

Tripp co-founded the company 12 years ago in Ottawa but moved it Texas because of market conditions.

But Sarnia became an attractive location because of Canada’s new Clean Fuel Standard, he said. Ottawa is preparing to publish proposed regulations to cut fuel emissions this spring and plans to have them in force by 2022.

Benefuel uses waste distiller’s corn oil from ethanol refining to make low-carbon biodiesel with a fraction of the emissions of regular diesel fuel.

Regular diesel scores in the 90s when tested on the

Canadian-developed GHGenius model, which calculates the total volume of greenhouse gases generated from start to finish, said Tripp, the company’s co-founder.

Benefuel’s product is “in the negatives,” he added.

“We are one of the most efficient process on the market today. And because we have one of the lowest carbon scores for any fuel, we think we can make a very big impact in reducing carbon in Canada.”

Sarnia is also close to Toronto, Canada’s largest consumer of diesel fuel.

“We’re hitting a big part of the market by focusing on diesel,” he said.

Benefuel hopes to break ground on the seven-acre parcel in two years, as engineering and financing is finalized. The refinery will require “several hundred” trade and fabricating workers to build and produce up to 75 million litres of biodiesel a year, Tripp said.

“We’re hoping with the new Ontario government and their environment plan and associated Ontario carbon trust fund, there’ll be provincial funds as well.”

Suncor is an investor in the project, which has received funding from Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, the Sarnia-based not-for-profit that uses government money to help commercialize sustainable chemistry projects.

Benefuel is also involved in a commercial plant in Nebraska and developing a project in Vancouver, Tripp said.