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Letter of intent signed for new northwest fibre-to-natural gas plant

Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc. and REN Energy International will conduct a feasibility study
Signing ceremony
Theresa Nelson of Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc. (l) and Philip Viggiani of REN Energy International Inc. (r) signed a letter of intent in Thunder Bay on Aug. 16, 2022 (Mitchell Ringos photo)

THUNDER BAY — The parties working to develop a fibre-to-renewable natural gas plant in the Thunder Bay district have now signed a letter of intent.

Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc. (LNFMI) and REN Energy International Corp. of Kelowna, BC also revealed more details of their plan for a new mill in the Nipigon or Greenstone area at a news conference Tuesday at Fort William Historical Park.

Theresa Nelson is Chief of  Animbiigoo Zaag'igan First Nation and president of LNFMI. She said the project means "everything" to the four First Nations that own the company.

The new plant would convert what the proponents describe as unmarketable hardwood, slash and debris.

"We've been trying to figure out a way to look after our hardwood for many years....We know the troubles and trials of going into a stand and cut it because there's too much hardwood or you have to cut around it. There's so much regulations that you can't do because of the hardwood situation," Nelson said.

"It seems that we've found a great partner in achieving this goal," she added.

Nelson said the prospect of creating new jobs for the communities in the area gives her goosebumps.

"There was such a downturn in the forest industry in the past 30 years...We just about died there a few times, and now we're coming back. We're being really innovative. It's not just going to be wood. We can also look at garbage and the way we manage compost and things like that." REN Energy International is already developing a fibre-to-natural gas plant in British Columbia's West Kootenay region.

President and CEO Philip Viggiani believes Ontario's regulatory environment is more favourable to expediting the approval of this kind of project. He said "there's more feed stock here than probably anywhere in North America. It's an unlimited supply of great, great fuel."

Viggiani also expressed optimism about the timeline saying, "We can fast-track this thing so this could actually be built by the time our first project we've been working on for four years will be built," he asserted.

Some important steps lie ahead, though, notably a feasibility study that will include transportation and engineering requirements, site evaluation and other issues.

Once that's done, Viggiani said, "then we look at the requisite funding to move it forward. I can't speak for this group, but from our side once it's funded we can put a shovel in the ground." The B.C. project has capital costs of $210 million.