Canadian Oilsands Town Embracing Biodiesel

John Davis

canadaflagA town in the middle of the Canadian oilsands industry is embracing biodiesel as part of its plan to reduce its carbon footprint and provide fresh vegetables to the area. This article from the Edmonton Journal says Fort McMurray put in a system where one shipping container is producing biodiesel to help provide the energy for a second container used to grow the veggies.

In the midst of the carbon-heavy oilsands industry, Fort McMurray is on a mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by turning its garbage into energy and heat, and plans to eventually close its landfill.

It’s also a region with no local supply of fresh vegetables — that is, until Edmonton-based Sustainitech arrives with two more aquaponics units in shipping containers this fall, says CEO Joey Hundert. His company, which already uses vegetable oil to run carnival rides, won the gardening contract that’s a key part of Wood Buffalo’s new waste treatment system.

About 20,000 heads of lettuce can be grown annually in each converted shipping container, which has five layers of lettuce, 448 fluorescent lights and — on the bottom — a layer of tilapia, a freshwater fish whose excrement is turned into plant food by bacteria.

In the first phase, there will be six shipping containers — the biodiesel plant, one garbage gasifier arriving in January, three aquaponic containers for growing veggies and one low-speed generator. The latter is made from a retired tugboat engine, just to continue the recycling theme. The low-temperature gasifier will burn garbage and create synthetic gas. Mixed with the biodiesel, it will run electricity generators and also create heat for growing organic vegetables.

Officials say the waste vegetable oil from the surrounding work camps is the feedstock for the biodiesel, keeping that out of the landfills as well. Eventually, the biodiesel could run buses and be used for heating new homes.

Biodiesel, International, Waste-to-Energy