The plant owned by Quebec company Enerkem is believed to be the world's first full-scale waste-to-biofuels facility.
Enerkem is to handle operations and the city is to supply 100,000 tonnes annually of sorted municipal waste that cannot be composted or recycled.
Enerkem CEO Vincent Chornay (CHOR'-nay) says the process is slightly more expensive to Edmonton taxpayers than landfilling garbage, but is more sustainable.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson (EYE'-veh-suhn) says the plant should be a game-changer for dealing with household waste.
He says the plant, along with the recycling and composting the city already does, will keep almost all of Edmonton's waste out of the landfill by 2016.
"Here we are with one of the last pieces of the puzzle to get us to almost complete diversion from the landfill," he said Wednesday. "We think 90 per cent of our trash will now go to some higher purpose than being buried in the ground.
"We're creating green jobs, we're creating value and we're helping support innovation in Alberta and in the Canadian economy."
Chornay said the plant makes turning waste into useable fuels simple.
"We break down the waste using heat and convert it into a gas that is as clean as natural gas. Then we convert the gas to liquid methanol — and all that happens in three minutes."
Edmonton currently composts and recycles about 60 per cent of residential waste.
It's expected that, at full capacity, the Enerkem plant will produce 38 million litres of clean fuels and biochemicals annually. It will initially produce methanol and later ethanol — enough each year to fill the tanks of 400,000 cars using a five per cent ethanol blend.
Edmonton is considered a leader in municipal waste management. Its facilities are visited by officials from all over the world.
(CHED, The Canadian Press)