Curious onlookers may be forgiven for thinking the Stettler area is quickly becoming the fibreboard capital of Canada, as a second company has announced they’re building a major plant here.
Alberta BioBord Corp. contacted the ECA Review newspaper last week after a story was printed about Great Plains MDF’s plans to develop a fibreboard mill in the region south and east of Stettler.
Now, Alberta BioBord, unrelated to Great Plains MDF, stated they plan to develop a fuel pellet and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) plant adjacent to the Town of Stettler.
Alberta BioBord is headed up by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) George Clark, who was formerly a spokesperson for Great Plains, and Clark, along with directors Randy Kerr and Lorne Murfitt, joined the ECA Review for a teleconference interview Jan. 19.
Murfitt stated during the Great Plains effort a lot of time and effort was spent meeting the public and touring rural Alberta looking for a place to build an MDF facility and Stettler was selected at that time for a variety of reasons, including its excellent road system, proximity to rail lines and population.
Murfitt added that even after several people joined Alberta BioBord, they still focused on Stettler.
Clark stated that when looking for a great place to build an MDF plant, which uses wheat straw to make fibreboard, Stettler kept coming to the top of the list.
While Clark said the mill rates are not necessarily the lowest in this region “the logistics were absolutely the best.”
Clark stated that Alberta BioBord hopes to continue with the site named last summer, a parcel of land across the road from the Stettler airport, which he said has easy rail access and good connector roads nearby.
He stated Alberta BioBoard won’t be causing any traffic troubles as the existing truck routes will suffice, and also pointed out no Alberta BioBord traffic will be using Main Street.
Clark also pointed out trucks supplying Alberta BioBord’s facility will be coming from all directions surrounding Stettler, not just one.
Additionally, Alberta BioBord is proposing straw depots around the area where material can be stored and trucked when needed, plus the use of train cars.
The CEO stated Alberta BioBord’s project is valued at between $650 and $750 million, but noted the project will first begin as a fuel pellet plant.
Murfitt and Kerr explained straws can be used to make fuel pellets, a heating fuel in big demand. This phase is estimated at between $35 and $40 million.
After the fuel pellet plant is up and running, the MDF plant could move forward.
It’s estimated the fuel pellet plant will be producing 300,000 metric tonnes of pellets per year with 40 metric tonnes of biomass fibres entering the plant every hour.
Clark pointed out Alberta BioBord is also willing to buy flax straw from producers, which he stated is probably good news for producers looking to sell their flaw straw.
The CEO explained the company’s first round of financing is being finalized now and expects that to be ironed out by the end of February, when things like municipal approvals can then be addressed.
Clark said the company would like to see construction start this year with the fuel pellet plant in operation next fall.
Where will this wheat and flax straw be coming from?
Central Alberta producers. Clark noted Alberta BioBord’s collection zone for straw will be at least a 250-kilometre radius of Stettler, and the company is planning an extensive public consultation process.
All three men stated the company keenly wants to develop strong relationships with producers.
They added that producers should watch for more information coming over the next weeks and months about Alberta BioBord’s Stettler project.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter