A Saskatchewan-based company that focuses on providing sustainable and clean prairie-based biomass fuel, wants to buy flax straw from producers.
CEO of Prairie Clean Energy Mark Cooper says they’re buying between 6-thousand to 54-thousand tons of straw at a time, within a 100-kilometre radius around Regina and a 75-kilometre radius around Gilbert Plains, Manitoba.
It’s part of their plan to scale up production of flax pellets.
“We’re leasing a facility in Regina and we’re waiting for the equipment to arrive from the manufacturers and we’re anticipating it will be operational somewhere between April and June – exact timing to be determined – but for sure by the end of the first half of the year.” Cooper said, adding the company has another facility leased in Gilbert Plains. Once operational, he says both will be capable of producing up to 3 tons of flax pellets per hour to start then the volume will increase over time.
Cooper says it comes at a time when countries are seeking alternative sources of energy, including biomass. For example, Europe and Asia have been using biomass energy to transition away from coal.
A common biomass fuel is wood, but there is a growing shortage of harvested wood globally.
“More clients are looking for a new sustainable source of biomass and the next evolution of that is going to be agricultural straw,” he said. “Flax straw there is so much of it in Saskatchewan and across the prairies and most of it is being burned in the field. Our thought was ‘instead of doing that, let’s pay the farmers for this straw, let’s convert it into these pellets and let’s sell it to clients around the world who want to use it to get off of their dependence on coal and fossil fuels.’”
Cooper says the pellets can also be used for horse bedding. He notes in a news release through research they “discovered that flax pellets make excellent animal bedding because they are low dust, highly absorbent, compostable, and low ammonia producing.” He adds the pellets are being exported to the U.S.
In addition to selling in the U.S. and Canada, Cooper says the company has future sale contracts in the United Kingdom and Japan with the potential to expand its clientele in Europe.
He says none of this would be possible without lots of support. The company received a “$1.1-million dollar grant from the Mining Innovation Commercialization Accelerator (MICA) Network for its GHG emissions reduction project utilizing prairie biomass to generate energy and support the potash industry in lowering greenhouse gas emissions” as well as an $180-thousand grant “from Innovation Saskatchewan to continue its research and readiness work on flax pellet production in preparation for the 2024 opening of its Regina facility.”
Producers who want to sell their flax straw to Prairie Clean Energy can contact them by email at [email protected], call 1-306-910-3529, or visit their website prairiecleanenergy.com.