Biofuels from Municipal Waste Reduce GHG Emissions and Increase Potential Energy Diversity in Canada

Context of Transport Climate Action

Enerkem makes biofuels and renewable chemicals from waste. Its breakthrough technology is based on the principles of a renewable circular industrial economy. By providing a sustainable alternative energy source and satisfying the growing demand for renewable chemicals, it helps to meet today’s challenges associated with waste disposal and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . It also helps to resolve the question of how to dispose of rapidly accumulating non-recyclable and non-compostable garbage, while creating clean fuels and renewable chemicals from what is otherwise perceived as useless waste.

This proprietary technology is now commercially deployed at the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility, in Edmonton (Canada). This full-scale facility is the first collaboration between a commercial waste-to-biofuels producer and a metropolitan waste center wishing to address disposal problems. In global terms it is seen as the market leader in what is the first wave of commercial advanced biofuel facilities, serving as a model for other municipalities seeking sustainable waste management solutions.

Enerkem’s technology and facilities help to diversify the energy mix and make everyday products greener, while also offering a sustainable alternative to landfilling and incineration.


Enerkem can convert non-recyclable household garbage into ethanol, used for transport fuel purposes in Canada, achieving the lowest production costs compared to other methods.

Biofuels from waste and residual biomass, such as ethanol and also methanol, provide alternative fuel sources in the global market that can gradually replace petroleum in the future, and have a positive impact on today’s most pressing global energy and environmental issues. Enerkem’s ethanol, for example, is a renewable, non-toxic, water-soluble, highly biodegradable and clean burning fuel, used as a high octane oxygenate in gasoline.

To date, more than 60 countries have established blending mandates or targets to increase renewable transport fuel content, a number that keeps growing every year along with the main demand for biofuels in these new markets. The expansion of alternative fuel sources is driven by the need to reduce dependence on oil and greenhouse gas emissions as well as to increase energy diversity.

Headquartered in Canada, Enerkem owns a full-scale commercial waste-to-biofuels facility in Alberta as well as a demonstration plant and a pilot facility in Quebec. The company is developing additional biorefineries in North America and globally, based on its modular manufacturing approach.



The Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility is part of a comprehensive municipal waste-to-biofuels initiative in partnership with the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions. It is by far one of the most significant development the waste and biorefinery sectors have seen yet, and one of the first commercial advanced biorefineries in the world.

In 2009, Enerkem and the City of Edmonton signed a 25-year agreement following a highly competitive technology review and qualification process in which the City evaluated more than 100 waste diversion technologies and selected Enerkem. Enerkem provides communities with a solution that fits with their current waste management practices and diverts the remaining garbage that would otherwise be sent to landfills by instead creating a clean transportation fuel. Enerkem’s community-based facilities have a compact footprint. They are usually located on landfill sites (as in Edmonton) or near the municipal solid waste sorting locations, reducing transportation costs and emissions alike.



The issue of waste disposal addressed by Enerkem’s proprietary technology can exist anywhere around the world. In addition to reducing landfilling, the use of non-recyclable waste as feedstock (material that can be converted to biofuels) offers many advantages: it does not compete with food supply, does not impact land use and is already collected via the waste management industry’s existing collection, distribution and logistics infrastructures.

Other benefits include:

Environmental/Social benefits

  • Solves waste issues and avoids methane emissions
  • The fuel produced reduces GHG emissions by 60% when compared to gasoline
  • Can become a model for commercial-municipal partnerships around the world
  • New “green” jobs

Economic benefits

  • The facility in Edmonton is our Enerkem’s full-scale facility but many others are currently either at the pre-construction stage or under development. Each facility represents an investment of USD $100M-$125M in the community
  • Creates high-quality jobs:
    • 610 direct/indirect during construction
    • 152 direct/indirect (permanent) during operation
  • Generates CAN $ 65 M/year in net economic benefits in the region
    (for 1 X standard Enerkem system of 38 million liters per year)

Energy benefits

  • Diversifies national and regional energy sources
  • Creates synergies with the petrochemical sector and research institutions

Potential for scaling up

Enerkem is a highly advanced green technology company. Its full-scale facility in Edmonton (Canada) is the world’s first commercial biorefinery to use non-recyclable household garbage to produce methanol and ethanol. This facility is the result of more than 10 years of effort to scale up Enerkem’s technology from pilot and demonstration to full commercial scale. It can become a model for communities around the world that are building a renewable industrial economy to address climate change and are looking for sustainable ways to manage waste.

Enerkem is open to partnerships with industrial leaders considering setting up projects using municipal solid waste facilities to produce clean fuels and renewable chemicals. In addition to licensing its technology, the company provides fully fabricated modular equipment and handles assembly on site.

Enerkem’s manufacturing approach is based on a plant model that is modular, compact and standardized, for efficient development and implementation. Enerkem’s equipment can be manufactured by third parties as prefabricated and replicable modules. Thus Enerkem has the ability to capture opportunities rapidly and efficiently, reduce capital costs and manufacture multiple facilities simultaneously. For local communities, it means new jobs, a sustainable alternative to landfill, and clean transportation fuels produced domestically.

Selected references

Company Website:

Media coverage: 

Enerkem raises funds for expansion, begins biofuel production in Edmonton – September 9, 2015 | The Globe and Mail:

Canada’s Top Energy Innovators 2015 – March 2, 2015 | Alberta oil Magazine:

Quebec’s Enerkem lands two deals to build biofuel plants in China – October 28, 2014 | The Globe and Mail:

Innovations used in 12 cities around the world may help others – September 27, 2014 | Los Angeles Times:

Waste-To-Fuel: How To Make A Challenge An Opportunity – June 30, 2014 | Forbes:

The Canadian firm transforming your sofa into biofuels – June 14, 2014 | The Guardian:

Trouble with trash? Try turning it into fuel – March 25, 2014 | CNBC:



Edmonton, Alberta, Canada + global







Enerkem Inc.


Annie Paré Director of Communications Enerkem Inc. +514-875-0284, x. 251

“We are proud that municipalities around the world are looking at the City of Edmonton and the Enerkem facility to see how they too can divert waste from landfill while producing clean fuels and chemicals through this innovative technology.”
-Mayor Don Iveson, City of Edmonton, Alberta