What’s the ideal role for an engineering firm embarking on a leading-edge technology project? Lyne Ricard, Montreal-based director of oil, gas and biofuels for BBA, offered a concise answer when offered congratulations after her firm was named one of five Special Achievement Award winners at the recent Association of Consulting Engineering Companies — Canada (ACEC) awards gala.
BBA was honoured for its stewardship of a world’s first — the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels project in Edmonton, which has been heralded as the world’s first commercial biorefinery, converting household garbage into clean energy.
Ricard was interviewed at the Ottawa awards ceremony held Oct. 25. She acknowledged the pivotal role of the client, Enerkem, which developed the technology.
"We worked really well with the client," said Ricard. "The technology belongs to the client, and we as engineers did our best to transfer from research and development a process and technology to engineering life.
"So, take something from research and commercialize it, make it happen, make it constructible. That is what engineering is all about."
The plant transforms municipal solid waste into methanol and ethanol. It’s designed to process 100,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The build took place between 2013 and 2015.
The ACEC project description for the award, called the Tree for Life Award, noted, "Sound engineering and innovations were key to the transition from research and development to full-scale application, all within budget. Through less landfilling, calculated greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 110,000 tons of CO2 per year."
Ricard said this plant will serve as a prototype for others that will be built around the world.
"A project that is from research, that is the first biofuel refinery in the world, it was never conceived before, so that is the challenge, to make it progress," she said.
"Now they are going to do that everywhere."
Other winners of ACEC Special Achievement Awards included Aecom, winner of an Ambassador Award for developing an improved method for planning protection infrastructures against natural disasters caused by climate change in Haiti; Fast + Epp, awarded a Schreyer Award for its work on the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre in Surrey, B.C.; Stantec, winner of the Engineering a Better Canada Award for its Mistissini Wooden Bridge build in northern Quebec; and COWI North America and Kiewit, recognized with an Outreach Award for their work on the Rio Abajo Footbridge in Rio Abajo, Nicaragua.
Fifteen other projects earned Awards of Excellence.
Individuals honoured by the ACEC were Réjean Breton, co-founder of BBA, who won the 2016 Beaubien Award for lifetime achievement; Philip "Skit" Ferguson, executive director of Consulting Engineers of Nova Scotia, given the Chair’s Award for exceptional contributions to the industry; and Tijana Smiljanic, transportation engineer at McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd., who was awarded the 2017 Allen D. Williams scholarship.