Court documents reveal business plans for bioenergy plant

Documents filed in a B.C. Supreme Court hearing show a Vancouver firm plans to generate electricity from a woodwaste burner in Dallas and build a bioenergy manufacturing plant.

The firm, named in a B.C. Supreme Court foreclosure process, is Nations Energy, which has been awarded a $1-million grant by the provincial Innovative Clean Energy fund.

Business plans to create bioenergy plants in Dallas are contained in materials filed as part of a foreclosure by Farm Credit Canada against Gold Standard Pellet Ltd, as well as its directors and a number of other firms.

The most recent business proposal from Nations Energy is dated from February this year, contained in an application to Natural Resources Canada for $4.7 million in funding toward a proposed $14.5-million plant.

The technology is known as torrefaction, a process of removing moisture from wood pellets to create "biocoal." Its claimed advantage is ability to pack far more energy for its mass than conventional wood pellets, making it viable to export overseas. The technology is promoted by the B.C. Bioenergy Network.

Another business plan from Nations Energy, dated in January this year, shows plans for a biocoal facility as well as a five-megawatt powerplant that would feed the B.C. Hydro grid.

Those facilities were to be constructed - beginning this year in company forecasts - at the site of the former SBC Firemaster plant on Dallas Drive.

The company, which later changed its name to Gold Standard Pellet, ran into financial difficulties and stopped operating in January. Directors of that company allege in the documents that Nations Energy and related companies claimed to government that it owned the Dallas plant, when in reality it had not closed on a series of deals it made and then abandoned.

Those claims have not been proven in court.

Reached Friday, Nations Energy chairman Rob McLean said there is a settlement agreement in the foreclosure and all affidavits are being withdrawn.

Nations Energy may become a bidder for the former Dallas Drive pellet plant under a court-ordered process or it may seek other land in the city.

"We are in Kamloops. We have a commitment and plan on doing a number of things and have a relationship with bands in the area."

Saying they are proprietary, McLean would not comment directly on the business plans contained in the court documents. But he confirmed the company is planning to burn woodwaste and to create biocoal at a Kamloops plant. It is also seeking money from Natural Resources Canada.

Many of the business plans name Kevin Ainsworth as president of the company as well as Mike Lebourdais, chief of Whispering Pines Indian Band, as a partner. Both are no longer listed with the company.

Chris Ortner, former chairman of Venture Kamloops and a forester, said business plans like these are being hatched to take advantage of government policy around creating energy that doesn't contribute to global warming.

"There's a lot of things coming forward to utilize new technology, wood products into coal. A lot is driven by the carbon credit system and the carbon tax."

Corporations are looking for ways to create energy without using fossil fuels that will eventually attract penalties.

But Ortner said any project in Kamloops faces the challenge of community acceptance after rejection of Aboriginal Cogeneration's failed plans to burn railway ties, as well as competition for wood supply.

Whispering Pines was awarded access five years ago for up to 200,000 cubic metres a year of wood.

Ortner said that volume is "theoretically available." But there are concerns by other First Nations about the scale of logging as well as a dwindling number of stands that can be economically harvested because they contain few saw logs with higher value.

McLean said the company is confident of obtaining a wood supply and will make an announcement about its project when it is ready.

Environment Minister Terry Lake said he is not familiar with the Nations Energy proposal, which was funded under another ministry. But in general he said money is not given to companies unless they have private funding and meet all standards.

"I know they don't get funding from us without these things in place," Lake said, calling it "higher risk" venture capital.

"As we saw with Aboriginal Cogeneration, sometimes these things don't turn out because everything doesn't come together."

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