CHIP 101.9 spoke with Renmatix’s director of engineering, Mike Simard, to learn more about the company’s intentions for the installation of a biorefinery in the Pontiac. It was the first time that CHIP 101.9 had the chance to speak with the Renmatix company. Recall that the newsroom of CHIP 101.9 revealed in 2017 that the American company was coveted to establish itself in the Industrial Park located in Litchfield (formerly the site of the Smurfit-Stone). Last August, an article from CHIP 101,9, mentioned that the establishment of a biorefinery in the Pontiac was still relevant and that Fiber Pontiac was working on the establishment of a biomass recycling center. A few weeks later, the project returned to the news with an article published by the QMI agency, which essentially reaffirmed that the project of a biorefinery was still relevant. In addition to the Pontiac, Renmatix has already revealed that other places in the United States are also in the race. The CHIP 101.9 newsroom wanted to know if the installation of a biorefinery in the Pontiac was still possible.
CHIP: Is your company still considering establishing a biorefinery in the Pontiac?
Mike Simard: We have been working with Pierre Vézina for several years now to set up a project in the Pontiac.
CHIP: Remind us of your products.
MS: Our process is the use of wood fiber and then the Pontiac has an abundance of raw material at a good price. With the closure of pulp and paper mills, there is a glut. That’s what attracts us, like other places where it is possible to have fiber. Renmatix has developed a technology that uses water and electricity to extract microcrystalline cellulose and lignin from the healthy wood fiber of low-quality trees. The finished product can replace gluten, eggs and some fats in foods and cosmetics. The wood residues would then be used to make biogas or bioethanol. We know that plant closures mean that the material we use is definitely available.
CHIP: Could the location announcement for your future biorefinery take place in 2021?
MS: Yes it could happen. We have fallen behind with the pandemic, COVID-19 has affected us at different levels. Before we announce a new factory, it takes purchase contracts (sales) for our products to justify our investments. To do that, it takes the development of new markets, agreements with companies, the signing of contracts and all of that has been greatly delayed with the pandemic. Unfortunately we could not always meet our business partners to complete certain sales. Often we couldn’t get around, so we were really behind in this area.
If we are talking about the possibility of establishing a biorefinery in the Pontiac, we could not even send our engineers to Canada. Even today, when we want to send employees to Canada, we must respect the isolation of 14 days and the same when they come back, so it is very difficult for the moment to develop a project of this kind.
We hope that with vaccines, things will improve. We’re trying to answer these questions right now, but like everyone else, we don’t really have an answer right now.
We were hoping to make an announcement in 2020, now all we can do is get everything ready to be ready as soon as possible.
Let us recall that in this file, during a strongly animated vote, the mayors of the MRC Pontiac voted to impose conditions on consultant Pierre Vézina (Fiber Pontiac), a contract which ended in December 2020. A few weeks later, in a resolution voted unanimously, the mayors of the MRC Pontiac said they wanted to welcome the Renmatix company so that it could choose the Pontiac for the installation of its biorefinery.