Lambton farmers to fuel new biomass sugar plant


The president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture says a new dextrose sugar plant in Sarnia will provide another way for local farmers to be profitable.

Comet Biorefining will build a commercial scale biomass derived sugar facility in the TransAlta Energy Park in Sarnia. The plant will produce dextrose sugar from corn stover – the stalks leaves husks and cobs left on the field after the corn is harvested.

The dextrose sugar produced at the plant will be converted into a number of products including organic acids, amino acids and bioplastics.

These low-carbon, bio-based products replace traditional petroleum-based materials, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help contribute to Canada’s efforts on climate change.

Don McCabe of Inwood has been part of a group hoping to find a way to use corn stover. Last year, he held a demonstration at the farm of Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan on how the crop residue could be harvested. One of those one tonne bales of stover went to Comex’s pilot plant in Italy to make sure the company could use corn stover in the process. When it worked, the company made the decision to open up the plant in Sarnia.

“I’d like to commend Comex staff for their vision,” says McCabe.

He says with corn yields increasing to between 150 and 200 bushels an acre there are a lot more stalks left on the field. “This plant will complete a very necessary link in the supply chain,” he says. “It also shows there is absolutely no such thing as waste in agriculture…there is only underutilized opportunity.”

McCabe says a cellulosic sugar producers cooperative will begin work this year to start securing the feedstock for the plant which is expected to be in operation by 2018. He says the corn stover will likely come from Lambton, Kent, Middlesex, Elgin and Huron Counties adding this give farmers another opportunity.

McCabe is not the only person excited about the new plant. Murray McLachlan, the executive director of the BioIndustrial Innovation Canada says it is “an excellent opportunity to accelerate the growth of the bioeconomy in rural Ontario.”

Company officials are keen to get started. “Construction of this first-of-a-kind plant represents a key step towards the large-scale commercialization of our cellulosic sugar business,” says Andrew Richard, CEO of Comet. “It highlights the important role our technology plays in the value chain, helping to drive the bioeconomy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”