By COLLIN GALLANT on July 24, 2020.
Opposition is being raised against a proposal to build a waste-to-diesel refinery near Dunmore, with a major agricultural firm stating it is “vehemently opposed,” though the developer says its plans are misunderstood.
Cielo Waste Services has plans to build the facility that would transform organic waste, like municipal trash and potentially railway ties, into what it calls “Renewable diesel fuel” through a patented, but chemical process.
This spring a local investors group that would be joint partners in the $30-million facility announced they had secured a tentative location just outside Dunmore’s corporate limits.
Last week, in a subdivision application before Cypress County’s municipal planning commission, global agri-food company Paterson Grain made a formal submission stating the refinery and potential chemical exposure would put operations at its terminal (north of the site) at risk.
“If the renewable waste facility is constructed, it would have severe and long-lasting implications,” company director Murray Froese wrote to the commission.
The application, to create a subdivision on the southern portions of two quarter-sections that are hemmed in between the Trans-Canada Highway and Canadian Pacific mainline east of the Highway 41 intersection, was approved. Facility construction is to be permitted at a future stage.
But, Renewable U spokesperson Ryan Jackson said the process that Cielo uses is being mischaracterized.
“Most of (the opposition) comes from not understanding the business,” Jackson told the News on Thursday. “It’s a closed system. There’s no waste product other than sulphur, which is turned into fertilizer. No waste gas other that what’s incinerated and flared.”
“We’re not creating tailings ponds, or anything else that people might imagine.”
Jackson said he plans to invite Paterson officials to observe Cielo’s prototype refinery in Aldersyde, near High River, where wood mass is converted to diesel fuel and other types of vehicle fuel.
Cielo has previously said the facility would appear similar to a tank farm and accept dry waste, like crumbled ag byproduct, municipal waste, and has an agreement with Canadian Pacific for a supply of preserved ties. It’s billed as a solution to environmental contamination.
Paterson’s correspondence states the facility shouldn’t be located adjacent to its elevator where it typically stores and aerates 68,000 tonnes of grain.
“The construction of an energy producing facility, even one that reduces these types of emissions, is incredibly dangerous for this area give Paterson’s grain handling, grain exports and consumer food products,” its letter reads.
Another letter of opposition was filed by Denene Mastel, who owns the section directly south of the highway, across from the site.
She also questioned why the county planning staff approved the development, asking how a refinery could be considered consistent with land designation of low impact agriculture.
She argues that the planned interpretation that the facility is a “waste disposal site,” which would be allowed without a zoning change, is incorrect, and the enterprise should require industrial designation.
As well, the land borders area set aside recently in the “Gasoline Alley” area structure plan, passed by the council this year, to promote commercial and business development west of the intersection of Highway 41 (which becomes Township Road 120) and the Trans-Canada, inside Dunmore.
The current subdivision permit requires the developer to create an access plan for the site and acquire approval from Alberta Transportation, since Highway 41 is the preferred access point.
Jackson said his company would comply with all conditions, and is continuing work to permit the road access as well as a spur line, and the operational schematic of the plant with Alberta Environment and relevant safety offices.
He said potential construction could begin in the summer of 2021.