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Photo Essay: The Refinery of Tomorrow Rises in Quebec

Electric cars are a great option for zipping around town, but it would take a prohibitive number of batteries to power a heavier-duty rig such as a long-haul transport truck. To keep these cargo haulers rolling far into the low-carbon future, we’re going to need renewable liquid fuels—and lots of them.

Enter SÉMER, a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plant and biomethane refinery now undergoing trials in Quebec. Next month, the facility will begin processing landfill gas and organic waste—including kitchen scraps and castoffs from slaughterhouses, water treatment plants, septic tanks, and agricultural livestock—to ultimately produce up to 3.6 million litres of liquid biomethane each year.

Quebec-based engineering firm Terix Envirogaz built and will operate SÉMER. The company will sell its liquefied biomethane to Gaz Métro, which will in turn retail the biomethane directly to truckers working the long-haul transport routes between Toronto and the Maritimes. The trucks must already have been converted to run on LNG. In doing so, Terix will reduce Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 9,000 tonnes per year.

SÉMER—a contraction of Société d’économie mixte d’énergie renouvelable de la région de Rivière-du-Loup— is a publicly funded partnership between Terix Envirogaz, the regional county municipality of Rivière-du-Loup, and the city of Rivière-du-Loup.

The plant is a product of Quebec’s 2006-2012 Climate Change Action Plan. The province and the federal government together financed the $25 million facility through initiatives designed to help local governments divert organic waste currently sent to landfills and make better use of the resource.

The SÉMER plant will not only produce renewable liquid fuel to reduce Quebec’s reliance on imported diesel and natural gas, but also nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer that will slash local farmers dependence on imported fossil fuel-based chemical fertilizers.

Terix will officially inaugurate the facility in late summer 2015.

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Two construction workers remove the crane lift straps from the newly biomethane installed refining tower (left). This refining tower separates the CO2 and any impurities from the methane. The purified methane will then sent to the cold box (right) where it s liquefied into biomethane, a renewable fuel destined for heavy trucks.
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Serge Forest (left), Director-General of SÉMER, and Éric Tremblay (right), President of Terix Envirogaz on the SÉMER construction site in May 2015 in Cacouna, Quebec.
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A wide angle view during construction of the SÉMER liquefied biomethane (LBM) plant in Cacouna, Quebec: two construction workers removing the crane straps on the newly installed biomethane refining tower. SÉMER’s four anaerobic digesters are seen on the right.

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An early morning view of the construction site at SÉMER, Canada’s first liquefied biomethane (LBM) plant in Cacouna, Quebec. The tallest tower in this photo (center) is the refining tower, where the CO2 and other impurities are separated from the methane gas. To the left of the refining tower is the cold tank, where the purified methane gas is liquefied into biomethane. Not yet installed is the storage tank to hold the liquefied biomethane (LBM) destined as renewable fuel for heavy trucks.
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A crane slowly lifts the storage tank (left) for installation next to the cold tank (right) during construction of SÉMER, Canada’s first liquefied biomethane (LBM) plant in Cacouna, Quebec
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A welder makes a last-minute modification during construction of SÉMER, Canada’s first liquefied biomethane (LBM) plant in Cacouna, Quebec.
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A view of the reception bin, where municipal waste trucks from five municipal regional counties in eastern Quebec (Rivière-du-Loup; Kamouraska, Les Basques; La Mitis and La Matapédia) deliver organic waste for processing into liquefied biomethane (LBM) at Canada’s first liquefied biomethane (LBM) plant in Cacouna, Quebec.
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Kathleen Landry (left) and Jonathon Baker (right) climb down into the reception bin to collect a small sample of organic waste.

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