A 2021 start to the proposed Alberta BioBord medium density fibreboard (MDF) plant near Stettler may not be possible it was revealed at the County of Stettler regular council meeting March 10.
Alberta BioBord, the company proposing a multi-million dollar plant in the county and just south of the Town of Stettler, spoke to council at their meeting through three representatives including Chief Executive Officer (CEO) George Clark, along with directors Randy Kerr and Lorne Murfitt.
During the presentation, Clark noted several times BioBord’s preferred location, south of Stettler across the road from the airport, was ideal for a number of reasons, including rail access, road network, power and water.
However, Clark stated negotiations with the landowner are being complicated by the fact the site falls inside the Inter-municipal Development Plan ribbon and noted the company would like to break ground on Phase I in late June to early July of this year.
The IDP is an agreement between the town and county on how future development will proceed, and Alberta BioBord’s preferred site is currently marked for future town residential growth.
Clark noted Alberta BioBord is still looking at beginning construction on Phase I in 2021 with groundbreaking for the bigger plant by the end of this year.
He estimated Phase I would need two to three months for construction while Phase II would be about 18 to 24 months.
The CEO stated Alberta BioBord was requesting the county’s help in getting the re-zoning of the site in question approved, and further noted tax revenue for Phase I could be around $600,000 annually, and Phase II in the millions of dollars.
Coun. Les Stulberg, Wayne Nixon and Cheri Neitz noted that changing the IDP would require a process involving Stettler town council and a public consultation process, plus the re-zoning process on top of that, all of which stems from provincial government law.
The CEO stated Alberta BioBord’s investors and customers wouldn’t be happy with a six month delay.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy asked if the company had begun its own public consultation.
Clark answered Alberta BioBord has ongoing social media engagement, has an office in Stettler, has spoken to the landowner directly south of the site in question, spoken to both the Stettler Learning Centre and Board of Trade and has received a lot of positive verbal feedback in the area.
Coun. Stulberg asked if BioBord looked at other industrial sites available in Stettler, and Clark said he had but they were prohibitively expensive.
CAO Cassidy added that the county hasn’t received any application or request from Alberta BioBord for an amendment to the IDP or a re-zoning of the property in question.
“We can’t do anything until we have something to work with,” said Cassidy, noting he should meet with county planners to get the ball rolling.
Clark stated Alberta BioBord plans to eventually build an estimated $650 to $750 million MDF plant using straw fibre that will also have an associated value-added plant for things like shelving and cabinetry, with the company seeking straw supplies within a 250 km radius around Stettler.
He stated Alberta BioBord has signed memorandums of understanding with both engineers and contractors for the project and received “pretty decent” response on the first round of equity funding.
He noted the larger plant may take a bit longer to develop which is why BioBord is also planning a smaller fuel pellet plant that would also take advantage of central Alberta straw supplies.
He referred to the pellet plant as Phase I and the MDF plant as Phase II.
He also noted the pellets would be for industrial or residential use and, as the plant would have four productions lines, may also supply the agriculture industry.
Traffic volumes shouldn’t be an issue noted Clark, stating the 200,000 tonnes the plant requires annually would break down to about one truck every 30 minutes for a 10 hour work day.
As well, Alberta BioBord isn’t planning on storing huge amounts of straw on-site.
Clark stated the pellet plant, employing dry steam, would need about 100 cubic meters of water a day, and Assistant CAO Andrew Brysiuk stated that’s within the county’s ability to supply.
Reeve Larry Clarke asked what odours would come from the plant. The CEO answered the pellet plant would have next to no odour.
Councillors noted they have an upcoming joint meeting with the Town of Stettler, and this topic would likely be on the agenda. Councillors accepted the Alberta BioBod presentation for information.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter