Skip to content

Sudbury short-listed as potential plant site (9/03)

By ANDREW WAREING In a short time, Sudbury could learn whether or not it will be a major producer of biodiesel in Canada. In early August, Topia Energy Inc.


In a short time, Sudbury could learn whether or not it will be a major producer of biodiesel in Canada.

In early August, Topia Energy Inc. president and senior partner Govindh Jayaraman said an announcement was coming within the following month to six weeks on a final location for a proposed bio-diesel production facility. Topia Energy is a division of The Green Incubator Inc.

“What’s surprised us as we’ve gone through this examination is the realization of just how much available farmland in the area has been devoted to canola production,” says Jayaraman. “We’re very seriously looking at the city on a short list of locations to place the plant. Other than that, there’s not much more I can say.”

It takes approximately 10,000 acres of canola and/or soy to produce three million litres of bio-diesel. There is approximately 10,000 acres of active canola and soy growth taking place between Timiskaming and the Nipissing/Greater Sudbury regions combined.

Bio-diesel is a type of fuel that is produced from the oil of canola and soy and is processed to produce a cleaner fuel for diesel-powered vehicles. Commonly, it is mixed with petroleum-source diesel in a mixture of between five to 20 per cent bio-diesel to petroleum diesel.

In July, the City of Greater Sudbury announced it was switching to bio-diesel for its public transportation, city and utility vehicles. A couple of private sector partners were also joining into the program, including the Coopérative régionale de Nipissing Sudbury Ltd.

Raymond Savage, general manager of Coopérative régionale de Nipissing Sudbury Ltd., says the local farmers are cautiously considering their options.

“The biggest concern is what price the growers need them to buy their product at to make it affordable for them to sign a contract,” says Savage. “It all depends on commodity prices. They may be willing to sell a certain amount at a fixed price and speculate in the market with the rest.”

The only other processing plants for making canola oil are in southern Ontario, says Savage. If Topia Energy opts to place its crushing and refining facility in Sudbury, it could result in substantial savings of transportation costs.

Paul Finley, trade advisor for the City of Greater Sudbury says the bio-diesel initiative, along with the city’s wind-power initiative is part of an overall strategy to encourage growth in the local economy by making it an independent producer of energy.

“If there is one constant in economic industrial development, it is the need for energy,” Finley says. “By encouraging ways of creating energy, we can use that as part of an industrial attraction strategy that will not only bring new ones but keep those that are already here in the community because they can be assured of a stable and affordable source of energy.”

There is tremendous opportunity for other industries that develop as a result of secondary products produced in the refining of bio-diesel. For instance, glycerin is a common byproduct that can be used to make soaps, plastics and other products.

Finley says there are several conditions that will determine whether or not the production facility locates in Sudbury. They include market considerations, a sufficient number of sources for feedstock to the plant and what will happen with the recently announced Northern Ontario tax incentive zone announced this spring by the Ernie Eves government.