Ethanol Site Sought

A Studio City, California, entrepreneur says he wants to build a $350-million ethanol plant in the Lower Mainland. On July 14, Paul J. Finestone, president and CEO of Ecology Energy, told a Greater Vancouver Regional District committee that the project would convert wood cellulose into ethanol using a "gassification process".

Ethanol is a fuel additive made from renewable resources, such as corn, wheat, or wood. Finestone told the GVRD's waste-management committee that the wood cellulose would be converted into gas in an air-locked chamber, so there would be no noticeable emissions.

"From that gaseous state, we can produce either ethanol, natural gas, electricity, or LNG [liquefied natural gas]," Finestone said. "Basically, we're turning green renewable materials into a rapid composter, into gas, and it is a very, very clean process."

He said that any remaining wood residue would be "cooked" and then released as a solid, which could be used as fertilizer. "Gassification is not new," Finestone said. "It has been around for at least 50 years."

According to the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Canada created 240 million litres of ethanol in 2003, ranking 14th in world production.

Ecology Energy has a local partner, Bill Bohoslawec of International Energy Solutions Ltd., which has an office in Marpole. Finestone told the committee that his company is also in discussions with the North Fraser Port Authority about a possible location for the plant. "The NFPA is quite concerned that you are supportive of the project before they go ahead," he said.

Finestone also told the committee that his company might also like to explore the possibility of creating energy from sludge at the Iona Island waste-treatment area. After his presentation, the committee voted unanimously to ask for staff to report back on his proposal.

Finestone later told the Straight that the plant would directly employ more than 100 people and create an additional 500 jobs during construction. He said that his family owns a large commercial insurance brokerage firm in California, and that he provided the GVRD directors with a "letter from the capital sources". Finestone refused to identify any of his investors to the Straight.