Entrepreneur Stories · Thursday, October 8, 2015

Transforming waste into biofuel

Vincent Chornet's Story

For 15 years Vincent Chornet has been heading Enerkem, where he has revolutionized the energy market by transforming waste intobiofuel. Based on a process developed by the entrepreneur’s father, Enerkem has become a key player in the biotechnology market.

When he completed his university studies in Montreal, Vincent Chornet was headed for a career in financial management. He abandoned thefinancial markets to dedicate himself to the Enerkem venture he founded in 2000 with his father, Esteban Chornet, researcher and ProfessorEmeritus of chemical engineering at Université de Sherbrooke. Based on the Enerkem principle, non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW)is converted into biofuel and renewable chemicals.

A family story that fuels energy

During his studies, Vincent Chornet was had a keen interest in his father's research. The context was the early 1990s, a time when Quebecventure capital investment in the biotechnology industry was in its first stages. Vincent Chornet was acutely aware of the scope of his father'sresearch, which was likely to significantly change the proportion of renewable energy on the planet and replace fossil fuel. He was convincedthat this technology would change the world. This is how Enerkem combined the scientific genius of a father with a son's desire to put hisenterprising spirit to work and change things.

Enerkem faces the challenges of exporting its expertise

Vincent Chornet and his team decided to export Enerkem and all it had to offer beyond the borders of the province, specifically to the citiesof Edmonton and Rotterdam (Nertherlands). In addition, the U.S. government had set up ambitious programs to increase the proportion ofrenewable fuel, so the company also developed a real presence in the Houston area, in Texas.

"When you want to export, you need to remain alert, spend a lot of time outside your own country, observe and be curious abouteverything, listen to others and be sensitive to other people’s values. Business values, of course, but also the values of everyday life. Youmust fully immerse yourself in the other cultureto gain a full understanding."

becoming an entrepreneur, a passionate adventure

Vincent Chornet is understated and can recognize when he’s been wrong. For the entrepreneur, it's important for young Quebecers toaccept the notion of failure in their career. Failure is not only acceptable, but is sometimes desirable. As part of his responsibilities, theentrepreneur has had to deal with the bad choices of employees and business partners, poorly adapted projects and financial or commercialnegotiations undertaken when he was too young and inexperienced.

When we are younger, our carelessness and ambition can take overand become all-encompassing, he admits. One must learn to turnthem into vectors of well-thought-out action.

— Vincent Chornet

Above all, in Vincent Chornet's eyes, entrepreneurship is all about passion. And energy.

Enerkem in figures

  • 200: The number of employees
  • 300 million: The total investment amount 
  • 3: The number of countries where Enerkem has a footprint (Canada (provinces of Alberta and Quebec), the U.S. and the Netherlands)

Want to learn more? 

Visit Enerkem's website

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