biodiesel

The Milligan-Biotech plant cold crushes canola to produce biodiesel and other products. ((Milligan-Biotech))

Canada's first canola-based biodiesel fuel plant opened Thursday in Foam Lake, Sask.

Zenneth Faye, one of the original group of farmers who decided to build the Milligan Bio-Tech plant, said it had been a long road that began with an idea about 20 years ago.

Faye, an engineer, is now the executive manager of the plant, which crushes canola seed to produce various renewable products including lubricants and diesel fuel. He was one of a small group of canola farmers who sat around a kitchen table in 1991, trying to find new markets for their oilseed crop.

The group knew canola had been converted to fuel in Europe, but the winters are milder there than in Saskatchewan, so the challenge was to develop a fuel that wouldn't freeze at sub-zero temperatures.

"It's been a very bumpy road along the way," said Faye. "Developing the technology, developing the equipment that can be utilized and doing it in a cost-effective manner."

Twenty years and $20 million later, Faye expects to expand production at the new Milligan Bio-Tech plant as demand for its products increases.

"We have market opportunities to be a blending agent for other feedstocks and also a product that we can sell on its own.  Because it has the highest flowability in cold temperatures and also the greatest lubricity … of any feedstock."

Faye is quick to assure critics that this plant is not taking food away from the hungry.

"We use non-food canola that is rejected by the food plants," he noted. "And we have developed an efficient cold crushing [process] with the University of Saskatchewan and Agri-Food Canada to extract that oil. Then we take that oil and produce our biodiesel."

Demand for biodiesel is expected to increase when the federal renewable fuel mandate comes into effect in 2012.

That's when all diesel sold in Canada will have to contain at least two per cent biodiesel.