Company proposes building biodiesel plant in Sexsmith

·3 min read

Sexsmith’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) is exploring the establishment of a new biodiesel plant in town, said mayor Kate Potter.

The town is in contact with Northern Eagle Investment Partnership about the proposed Northern Prairie Biodiesel Project.

“We’re looking at building out more of an industrial-commercial area on the east side of the highway,” Potter said.

“There’s tons that would need to be done moving forward, but this is a project we’re looking at to see if it would be good fit here.

“For us, this is a long-term play - we’re creating some sustainability in our economic development … and EDAC is trying to pursue many different opportunities to be sustainable.”

Northern Eagle approached the town while considering various locations across northern Alberta for the facility over the past 14 months, said Shane Pospisil, Sexsmith’s economic development consultant.

Sexsmith stood out partly because its rail access would benefit the facility, which would use oilseed to produce food-grade biodiesel fuel, Pospisil said.

Pospisil was also a vice-chairperson with a Northern Eagle advisory board until last April, but Potter said the town is satisfied there’s no conflict of interest because Pospisil isn’t a decision-maker in the company. Council would have to approve the project, she added.

EDAC and Pospisil discussed the proposed development during its Jan. 26 meeting, Potter said.

“We’ve been working with (Northern Eagle) and making sure we can meet their needs,” Potter said.

Some of the EDAC meeting was dedicated to exploring whether infrastructure needs can be met and most of the discussion was in closed session, she said.

She said infrastructure needs include Internet and rail access.

The town is working with Internet providers to ensure the area east of Highway 2 will have connectivity, she said.

Moreover, the town extended water service to the area in October to encourage development.

Sewer service will be extended in the spring, she said.

The Alberta government recently approved Sexsmith’s application for $311,437 under the municipal stimulus program to help fund the water and sewer extension.

Potter said there’s been no subdivision application from Northern Eagle yet.

If the Northern Prairie project moves forward, Potter said council will need to ensure the area is properly zoned and there would be a public consultation and notification to surrounding landowners.

The major landowner in the area is a farmer and he has been involved in the discussions, she said.

Potter said she doesn’t anticipate the plant would interfere with residents’ enjoyment of their properties and there would be no emissions.

Pospisil said Northern Eagle operates 11 other facilities in the United States and Europe and emissions haven’t been an issue.

He added the highway would act as a buffer between the facility and houses.

The Sexsmith facility would cost approximately $125 million and could produce approximately 100 million litres of biodiesel fuel per year, he said.

The facility would be approximately 11,148 to 13,006 square metres and could create 26 to 28 full-time jobs, including local employment in transportation, Pospisil said.

He added construction of the facility would take less than a year after approval.

The pandemic is slowing the process, but Potter said she’s hoping in the next six months the town will have a timeline in place for development.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News