Plans are taking shape to see a major industry setting up shop here in Stettler.
“Alberta Biobord incorporated in September, but it has roots going back about seven years to the original Biobord Inc. corporation,” explained George Clark, thc company’s CEO and founder.
“The technology was designed, developed and tested through the Alberta Research Council,” he said. Over the years, there have been attempts to establish this kind of plant somewhere in western Canada.
“So we started in September, and in those intervening five months now, we are at the point of being able to proceed with the first phase of a two-phase project to deliver both straw fibre MDF and fuel pellets,” he said.
Clark said that Stettler is an ideal place for the facility.
“Number one, there is a large base of workers both for the construction and operation within a 45-minute radius of Stettler,” he said. Access to transportation routes is also a major plus, he said.
“There are three separate highways coming into the region,” he said, adding that there is also ample resources to provide the means to run the facility, too. “There is also a large volume of unused licensed water supply coming through the Shirley McClellan line.
“Our understanding is that Stettler currently uses somewhere in the range of 10 per cent of what they are licensed for,” he said. “Our project would hardly need five per cent more of that so there is plenty of water available without taking away from other potential industrial projects,” he added.
“So all of those things come into play, plus with being centrally-located and having a 500 km in diameter region of straw collection available to us makes it pretty much the perfect location for proceeding with this,” he said. “We determined that a year ago.”
To date, Clark said they received a letter of support from officials with the County of Stettler in mid-December.
“We are likely within a couple of weeks of filing formal applications with the County of Stettler to undertake the full-fledged proper review and public process of meeting approval for both our site selection and our permitting purposes for what our activity will bring to the region,” he said.
In the meantime, Clark said site clearing and ground preparation work is slated to begin this June.
“The initial phase – which is the fuel pellet plant – can be done on a very tight timeline,” explained Clark. “We have a MOU coming forward with a major engineering firm, and when they are prepared to release that we will be releasing it.
“If everything were to go on our desired schedule, and on the availability of the specialty equipment that is needed to make it work, the fuel pellet plant could be finished before the end of 2021,” he said, adding that a community outreach office is now open at 4803 – 44th Ave.
The office will be initially staffed by Alberta Biobord Director and VP Community Outreach Lorne Murfitt.
“We are excited about beginning the process of sharing our ideas with the Town and County of Stettler as well as the broader community. We believe that we have built a very exciting and environmentally friendly project that we hope all of Stettler and Alberta will be proud of,” said Murfitt.
“We welcome all residents to stop in when restrictions allow. We have lots of space to maintain appropriate social distancing” added Murfitt.
Meanwhile, Clark said, “We decided to move the fuel pellet production into phase one because it gives us the ability to get that first operation up and running for less than $40 million this year while we put into place everything that is needed and necessary to ensure a smooth implementation of the larger, $650 million to $700 million MDF plant.
“It also allows us to test out on a smaller scale our straw acquisition and logistics plan and make sure that we have all of the mechanisms possible for handling large volumes of fibre inputs, and to make sure we able to do things in a way that isn’t creating excess noise or anything else that would be of concern to residents particularly for the larger facilities,” he said.
“Basically, it gives us a very smooth path to ramp up to what ultimately is going to be, in our estimate, well over $700 million of investment coming into the Stettler region. It will likely end up being at least two or three times that much with the other industrial facilities that follow us into the region.”