Jerry Ericsson was a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University when he had an idea for a new generation biofuel. “I was looking for something that would help recycle the waste created by forestry, and support businesses feeling the crunch of the carbon tax,” says Jerry.
He approached his father Daniel Ericsson, an experienced tradesmen, with an idea: Would it be possible to build a direct replacement for coal, but make it clean, with low carbon emissions?
In Jerry’s words, “He just whipped it up and we had a primitive prototype.” They soon after teamed up with a series of engineers, scientists and vendors to come up with something they feel is unique. They might downplay the research & development efforts that went into initial production, but this father son duo has worked tirelessly since then to make their vision a reality. With the help of many family, friends, and dedicated shareholders in 2009, Diacarbon Energy was incorporated.
Since then the Diacarbon team has focused on perfecting their bio-coal product made from natural wood waste. Bio-coal is a form of charcoal that is produced at lower temperatures than fossil coal and has a higher burning efficiency once in use. Bio-coal is also a direct replacement for fossil coal, owing to its similar physical characteristics. It can also be cheaper than traditional fossil fuels used for heating and is regarded as ‘carbon neutral’ by all GHG reduction programs worldwide.
With their perfect bio-coal recipe now figured out, Diacarbon Energy is beginning commercial production and is looking forward to distributing the first round of their product in 2015.
It’s about who you know
Up until 2014, Vancouver-based Diacarbon was funded exclusively through grants and support from family and friends.
“We were really supported by people around us. Friends would tell friends and business associates about us, we would discuss our model and that’s how we would get new investors. It’s been amazing to see how much people trust and believe in our idea and the capabilities of our management team and Board,” says Jerry.
Through word of mouth, presenting at conferences and various grants, Diacarbon was able to raise almost $10 million.
When Export Development Canada (EDC) met Diacarbon at the Globe 2014 Conference, an international forum on business and the environment, and has since provided them with $2 million in financing for the development of a combined white wood pellet and new thermal biomass facility in Merritt, British Columbia. Once completed, the thermal biomass refinery will convert biomass waste into environmentally friendly, carbon neutral bio-fuels ready for distribution.
“I was impressed with Diacarbon from the beginning,” say Tammy Huston, EDC Account Manager. “Clean technologies are a priority for EDC and this company was innovative and ambitious, and had a very clear business plan. We could see the potential, so we were happy to support them in this next stage of their business.”
In fact, Diacarbon already has their first buyer lined up. French industrial giant Lafarge Cement Canada has agreed to purchase all of the bio-coal created out of the Merritt facility for use in their local cement production in British Columbia.
Diacarbon: A family affair
Despite their quick growth, Diacarbon remains a family business at its core. “Dad still comes into work often even though he’s past retirement age, but I love having him here with us,” says Jerry. Diacarbon has also hired a small staff of young, ambitious talent, and they remain very careful with their expenses.
Careful and calculated decisions has served Diacarbon well so far, and it’s a model they will continue to follow. “We keep costs low by looking for the most efficient way to use our funds,” says Jerry. “I was working on a small PhD student salary and never got out of the habit I guess,” he admits.
With interest from forestry companies across Canada and coal consumers across the globe, they are waiting until the Merritt facility is up and running before making any more big business moves. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” says Jerry. “We definitely want to expand, but we’re keeping our options open.”