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Retired power poles converted into biofuel

A routine trip to dispose of old power poles at Calgary's landfill earlier this year has led improvements in how ENMAX Power Corporation handles its power poles.

"Disposing scrap power poles has been a challenge for us for many years. We're required to deliver the poles in eight foot pieces to the landfill, involving significant manpower and safety planning, and we pay $150/ton in disposal fees," said Deborah Anderson, Manager, Power Procurement, ENMAX Corporation.

Earlier this year, Deborah learned that in 2015, poles would need to be chipped or shredded in order to be accepted at the landfill.

"Chipping and shredding would more than double the current cost for power poles disposal. Additionally, the amount of power poles issued to projects in 2014 doubled over previous years, increasing the volume destined for the landfill," said Deborah.

As part of the Supply Chain Management team, Deborah and Jennie Turner, Senior Environmental Engineer, ENMAX Corporation, investigated companies who could offer solutions for pole disposal. They settled on Enerkem, a pioneering industrial waste-to-biofuel producer with a full-scale facility at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

"Enerkem's carbon recycling process uses non-recyclable and non-compostable household garbage. Our poles, once shredded at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, can be mixed with these waste materials and used as feedstock for the waste-to-biofuels facility," explained Jennie. "Enerkem then uses its technology to convert this feedstock into bio-methanol and ethanol."

Disposing of our poles through Enerkem means that ENMAX Power will realize an estimated cost avoidance of $140,000 beginning in 2015.

Converting power poles to biofuel:

  • Scrap power poles are picked up at the ENMAX Power warehouse yard
  • The poles are sorted at a facility approved by ENMAX Power Environmental Services
  • Usable wood, usually between 15 to 20 per cent, is repurposed
  • The rest of the wood is shipped to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre for shredding by the City of Edmonton's Waste Management Services 
  • Enerkem uses the shredded poles as feedstock for its waste-to-biofuels facility in Edmonton

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