The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op was incorporated on September 19, 2014. The objective of Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op is to enable farmers in Ontario to participate in, and profit from, the development of the agricultural biomass supply chain and cellulosic glucose (sugar) and co-products production and sales through its relationship with Comet Sarnia and Comet.
Corn stover consists of the leaves, stock and cobs of the corn plants left in a field after harvest. There is no existing market for this corn stover and it is not considered to be a revenue generating material for producers. The conversion of corn stover into cellulosic glucose represents a new market with no corresponding cost to produce.
Aggregation studies and preliminary economic assessments conducted in 2013 by the University of Guelph at Ridgetown, Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture confirmed the potential for producers to create revenue from the corn stover supply chain. This initial work recommended that an agricultural co-operative provided the best model for this type of business venture. Based on this recommendation, the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative was incorporated.
Under the leadership of the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op and sugar consumer company partners, two projects costing more than $600,000 were undertaken by Bioindustrial Innovation Canada to assess the economic viability of the agricultural biomass to the cellulosic glucose value chain in Canada.
The first project was conducted in two parts which evaluated, developed and validated the agricultural biomass to sugars and co-products conversion technologies for commercial scale-up application. There were numerous cellulosic glucose conversion technology providers claiming to have economically viable technology producing sugars of high quality. However, no commercial facility had been built in Canada as there was insufficient information available to reduce the risks associated with:
Bioindustrial Innovation Canada concluded there was sufficient economic value with available technologies to support the development of a commercial plant to produce cellulosic sugar and co-products in Southwestern Ontario utilizing locally-harvested corn stover and provided recommendations to Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op. Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op accepted the recommendations and contacted Comet Biorefining to establish a sustainable agricultural biomass supply chain and to commercialize a cellulosic sugars and co-products conversion technology.
The second project focused on developing the specific business plan for Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op with Comet for the agricultural biomass to sugar value chain in Southwestern Ontario. The business plan included a full assessment of the specific costs for the aggregation, transportation and storage of agricultural biomass (particularly corn stover from the farm to the feed conveyor of the cellulosic conversion plant) and the potential financial returns for participation as an equity partner in the cellulosic sugar production facility. Following this study, the CSPC and Comet agreed to incorporate Comet Sarnia and initiate a capital campaign.
The technology that Comet will licence to the processing plant is designed to operate equally as well on corn, wheat straw and wood chips. Based on preliminary discussions, Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-op presently contemplates that the production plan is that two-thirds of feedstock requirements will be supplied by corn stover and one-third of feedstock requirements will be supplied by wheat straw. Wood chips will be available as a substitute should circumstances dictate. Each of corn stover, wheat straw and wood chips are fully capable of being substituted for one another and do not affect the overall efficiency or profitability of the processing plant.
1. Biomass supply and cost,
2. Cellulosic glucose plant capital and operating costs,
3. Sugar market quality requirements and pricing, and
4. The appropriate investment model.