What is the Bio-Mile?
The Drayton Valley Bio-Mile is an area of industrial land located adjacent to the Weyerhaeuser sawmill and the Valley Power co-generation facility in the south-west corner of Drayton Valley. The Bio-Mile was set up by the Town of Drayton Valley in order to attract businesses from the rapidly-emerging bio-economy. It is designed to provide a home to companies, organizations and research partnerships focusing on creating new products from the residues or bio-mass generated by the existing forestry and agriculture industries.
The science is complex, but the facts are simple. By taking wood fibre and plant-based bio-mass from the forestry and agriculture sectors and breaking it down to its constituent parts, it's possible to manufacture a vast array of consumer products, including:
- Traditional sawmill products
- Car parts
- Plastics and resins
- Building insulation
- Building products
- Cellulosic fuels
- Synthetic natural gas
- Renewable Transportation fuels
- Numerous bio-based consumer and bio-industrial chemicals
The opportunities have already brought four major industrial partners on board, including a European organization representing more than 75 research and industrial leaders interested in making products from clean, green and renewable natural fibres. Knowledge support for this new and sustainable stream of economic growth comes from partnerships with leading Alberta and European research institutions. Plans also call for integrating research and teaching into the Bio-Mile, providing ways for today's labour force to take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities.
Executive direction for the Drayton Valley Bio-Mile is provided by the Mayor and Council and a special Bio-Mile committee supported by a citizens' engagement committee.
Operational and management functions are housed within the BIO-ARCC (Bio-economy Incubator Office for Applied Research and Commercialization Centre) project. The BIO-ARCC, funded in 2010 through Rural Alberta's Development Fund, aims to create a centre of excellence providing business with access to expertise in applied research, commercialization, market research, business incubation and training and skills development. In short, the BIO-ARCC gives the Bio-Mile and our partners the tools they need to succeed in this emerging marketplace.
A key part of the BIO-ARCC is the creation of the Clean Energy and Technology Centre. This will serve as a catalyst for research and in clean energy in rural Alberta. The aim is to create a facility which will offer
- Research and Development support for new and existing bio-industrial companies
- Commercialization support for companies that need help moving from innovation and development to the commercialization of their products
- A link between industry, academia and potential investors
- Education and training to create a highly-skilled and educated labour force
The goal of the Bio-Mile is simple. Drayton Valley has a proud 50 year history of innovation and adaptation. Since it was incorporated, the town has relied on three main industries: oil and gas, agriculture, and forestry to build a prosperous and sustainable community. Those three industries will always play a key role in the social and economic fabric of the town. Now, Drayton Valley is looking to the Bio-Mile, its research, cooperation and innovation, to build on our strengths in oil and gas, agriculture and forestry and lead the way for the next fifty years and beyond.
Bio-Mile Triple E
Our vision is clear - as a leader in the global bio-economy, Drayton Valley's Bio-Mile will redefine our energy, respect our environment and reinvigorate our economy.
These three components are critical to our future and continued success. Each piece is as important as the others and ties in with the broad community sustainability objectives established by Drayton Valley and the Province of Alberta.
Since the 2007 closure of the Weyerhaeuser panel board facility in Drayton Valley, the town has been working to create new opportunities to use the region's woody bio-mass in innovative ways.
Compounding the loss of more than 500 local jobs, both directly and indirectly, at the mill, were a global recession and slumping energy prices that stressed Drayton Valley's ability to maintain a stable and sustainable tax base. Town Council has taken an active and energetic approach to investigate future economic opportunities that focus on innovation, creativity and commercialization.
The Bio-Mile will bring new jobs to Drayton Valley, pumping new revenues into the local economy. And the sky's the limit when it comes to the applied research function of the project. Innovation developed and brought to market through the Bio-Mile will pay dividends to the Bio-Mile itself and to the broader community for decades to come. By taking a leadership role in the bio-economy, we're providing a model for other municipalities, both in Alberta and across Canada, which can learn from our experience.
Markets for clean renewable fuels are expanding in Alberta and across Canada, with the introduction of Renewable Fuel Standards. For example, Alberta's potential market is 300 million litres a year of ethanol, and 110 million litres a year of renewable diesel (Alberta Energy), and both of those products can be made from woody and agricultural fibre without taking away from traditional product streams. Federal and provincial incentive programs are also in place to help offset the costs of building the renewable fuels sector.
The energy around the Bio-Mile is palpable - the shovels are set to go into the ground, equipment has been purchased, and already almost a dozen strategic partners are on board.
Those involved in the bio industry around the world are talking about the Bio-Mile and its potential. Our provincial and federal governments have invested significant public dollars, and leading research institutions are bringing their energy and enthusiasm to our vision.
Woody residues not used in lumber, panel or pulp production are billed as greenhouse-gas neutral when they come from a sustainably managed forest, and Alberta is a leader in forest practice certification.
Carefully-calculated volumes of the residues currently burned at roadside, left in piles in the bush or buried at the landfill offer an industrial feedstock that is a winner on several fronts. The next-generation gasification systems now being rolled out burn as clean as natural gas and are already installed in major urban areas such as Port Coquitlam, B.C., and under construction at the University of British Columbia.
For more information contact the Bio-Mile Co-ordinator.
Click here to see a presentation on the growth and development of the Bio-Mile and the Clean Energy and Technology Centre.
Click here for an analysis of the project compiled by Pricewaterhouse.