September 10, 2014 - Norfolk council has turned down a proposal for an innovative biodiesel refinery on the south side of Waterford. Council members expressed support for the concept Tuesday. However, they balked because the proposed location on Old Highway 24 is surrounded by residential housing, new housing developments and commercial properties. “It’s in the wrong place,” said Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke. “It would be in the wrong place in any community, wedged between two housing developments.” Sponsor of the proposal was Norfolk Disposal. The company operates a waste transfer station across from Waterford Plaza. Norfolk Disposal was prepared to make a substantial investment in new plant and technology and create 10 new full-time jobs. READ MORE.
Researchers conducted study in consultation with agriculture industry groups, through the federal National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative. OTTAWA - In the Off-Road Biodiesel Demonstration - Agriculture Sector, conducted by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) from August 2009 to November 2010, farmers using biodiesel blends in agricultural equipment ranging in age from 1965 to 2009 had no biodiesel-related equipment problems. The study found that canola-based biodiesel blends perform well through all seasons, even when left in tanks over winter. During the study period, temperatures ranged from -36 C to 31 C. The study was conducted at Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, and included eight farmers using over 50 pieces of farm equipment ranging from sub-100-horsepower yard tractors to +500-horsepower, 4-wheel drive tractors. A wide range of combines and swathers and several engine brands and types were represented. Blends containing from 2 per cent to 10 per cent biodiesel were incorporated into the participants' existing farm operations with no modifications to equipment, fuel storage facilities, or fuel handling practices. "The study included an entire cycle of farm equipment use, including a lengthy off-season storage period," said Grant McVicar, Director of Energy Conservation at SRC, an independent, third-party research organization. McVicar was and one of the investigators for the study. "Throughout the study, fuel quality was closely monitored in tractors, combines, swathers and on-farm bulk fuel storage facilities." The Renewable Fuels Regulations, published in the Canada Gazette on September 1, 2010, require an average of 2 per cent renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil. The Government of Canada has proposed a coming into force date of July 1, 2011 for this requirement. The Government is making the use of biodiesel mandatory to help reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. The requirement for 2 per cent renewable fuel in diesel and heating oil in Canada, combined with provincial regulations, will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to four megatonnes-the equivalent of taking one million vehicles off the road. Biodiesel is produced from renewable resources, helping to conserve Canada's non-renewable resources. Information for farmers available To help inform farmers about the findings of the Off-Road Biodiesel Demonstration - Agriculture Sector study, and to answer questions about the coming biodiesel regulations, a wide range of groups representing farmers and the agricultural and energy industries have worked together to develop a poster, Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions booklet. These are available at
Randy Duffy, research associate, University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, sees potential for corn stover beyond bedding and feed.Photo by Janet Kanters. If green chemistry sounds more like an oxymoron than an opportunity, be prepared for some big surprises in the not-so-distant future.Innovators within the manufacturing industry are getting back to nature and the door is open for farmers to take part. While the production of biofuels remains a popular example of green chemistry, ethanol is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to industrial products that are being designed to include more renewable resources. As governments start to wean ethanol companies off of subsidies, Murray McLaughlin, the executive director of the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre in Sarnia, Ont., says farmers can expect to see some positive changes.“Biofuels are important, but the challenge with biofuels is slim margins,” explains McLaughlin. “On the chemical side of things, as long as oil stays above $80 per barrel, we can be competitive with any of the companies in that space and don’t need subsidies.”In the petroleum industry, it’s not uncommon for companies to direct 75 per cent of raw materials into fuel production, but these often account for only 25 per cent of annual revenue. The rest of their income is generated by higher-end products, such as succinic acid, and it has made these products major targets for green chemists. Succinic acid is a specialty chemical used to make automotive parts, coffee cup lids, disposable cutlery, construction materials, spandex, shoe soles and cosmetics. It is usually made with petroleum, but BioAmber, a company that hopes to finish building North America’s largest bio-based chemical plant in Sarnia next year, has found a way to make succinic acid using agricultural feedstocks. By using agricultural feedstocks instead of petroleum in its process, BioAmber produces a product that is not only more environmentally friendly but also, critically, costs less than petroleum-based succinic acid. In some applications, it performs even better than its petroleum-based competitors. Babette Pettersen, BioAmber’s chief commercial officer, explains how the new technology is outperforming its traditional competitors.“Succinic acid offers the highest yield on sugar among all the bio-based chemicals being developed because 25 per cent of the carbon is coming from CO2, which is much cheaper than sugar,” says Pettersen. Assuming $80 per barrel of oil and $6 per bushel of corn, BioAmber’s product pencils out at more than 40 per cent cheaper than succinic acid made from petroleum. “Our process can compete with oil as low as $35 per barrel,” Pettersen adds. The increased efficiency of the company’s process reduces the need for raw product, for example, from two kilograms of sugar to make one kilogram of ethanol to less than one kilogram of sugar to produce one kilogram of succinic acid.The new plant is projected to purchase an annual quantity of liquid dextrose from local wet mills, which is equivalent to approximately three million bushels of corn. BioAmber’s yeast, the organism that produces bio-based succinic acid, can utilize sugar from a variety of agricultural feedstocks (including cellulosic sugars that may be produced from agricultural residuals such as corn stover when this alternative becomes commercially available).Randy Duffy, research associate at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, co-authored a recent study on the potential for a commercial scale biorefinery in Sarnia, Ont. The idea of producing sugars from agricultural residuals is attractive to companies like BioAmber, which faces public pressure against converting a potential food source into an industrial product, but also to farmers looking to convert excess field trash into cash. “We’re at the point where some fields probably have too much corn stover and this is an opportunity for farmers if they want to get rid of their stover,” says Duffy. “Some farmers are using it for bedding and feed, but there’s a lot of potential corn stover out there not being used or demanded right now.”In fact, the report estimated that more than 500,000 dry tonnes of corn stover are available in the four-county region of Lambton, Huron, Middlesex and Chatham-Kent, and the refinery could convert half of it into cellulosic sugar annually, at a relative base price for corn stover paid to the producer of $37 to $184 per dry tonne, depending on sugar prices and sugar yields. McLaughlin says that with more and more companies look into building facilities like biorefineries, the potential benefits for farmers multiply exponentially. At the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre alone, McLaughlin says, there are three green chemistry companies already working in pilot demonstration scale operations to produce ethanol from wood waste, butanol from fermented wheat straw or corn stover, and plastic pellets with hemp, flax, wheat straw or wood fibres in them. On a full-scale basis, any one of these has significant potential to help farmers penetrate entirely new markets.Although these green products are exciting, McLaughlin strongly believes green chemistry is not going to completely replace oil and he tries to impress this on others. “There are such large volumes of these chemicals produced from oil, I don’t think we ever will get to the point where we can displace these chemicals,” he says, “but we can complement them.” He says Woodbridge’s BioFoam, a soy-based foam used in automobile interiors as seat cushions, head rests and sunshades, is an excellent example of a hybrid product that uses green technology and petroleum technology. In order for the green chemistry industry in Ontario to realize its maximum potential, he believes everyone involved needs to consider the oil industry as a potential ally rather than the enemy. “The petroleum industry already knows the chemical markets and they’ve got the distribution,” he says, “so, who better to partner with?”   What, exactly, makes some chemistry ‘greener’?Green chemistry is a relatively new concept, but rather than simply claim to be more environmentally friendly, the philosophy is defined by structured principles. Put simply, these technologies, processes, and services are required to prove safer, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. In 1998, Anastas and Warner defined the 12 principles of green chemistry.Prevention – Avoid creating waste rather than treating or cleaning it up after the fact.Atom economy – Synthetic methods must maximize the incorporation of all materials.Less hazardous chemical syntheses – Design synthetic methods that are least toxic to human health and the environment.Designing safer chemicals – Chemical products should be designed to be effective but with minimal toxicity.Safer solvents and auxiliaries – Avoid the unnecessary use of auxiliary substances and render harmless when used.Design for energy efficiency – Energy requirements of processes should be minimized for their environmental and economical impact. Use of renewable feedstocks – Raw materials should be renewable whenever technically and economically practical.Reduce derivatives – Use of blocking groups, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes, etc., requiring additional reagents should be minimized or avoided if possible.Catalysis – Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.Design for degradation – Environmental persistence of chemical products should be minimal.Real-time analysis for pollution prevention – Real-time monitoring and control of hazardous substances must be developed.Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention – Substances used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for accidents.
Turning lower-grade canola into biodiesel presents some challenges, but Prairie researchers are finding innovative ways to overcome those challenges. They’re developing new approaches that are more efficient, produce better biodiesel and valuable byproducts, and help improve the economics of biodiesel production from damaged canola seeds. “In the short term, we’re working with others to generate a market for low-quality canola. So if a grower has a bin that overheats or a canola field that gets caught under a snow bank, we can at least redeem some value for that material for them by having an industry that is receptive to frost-damaged, heated and field-damaged materials,” explains Dr. Martin Reaney, research chair of Lipid Quality and Utilization at the University of Saskatchewan. “In the longer run, we are identifying added value in the crop. In my experience, when somebody discovers an added value opportunity, it doesn’t typically result in a much higher price. But it does tend to stabilize the price. We’re introducing technology that may lead to a more stable price by adding another market to the meal and oil markets for the canola crop.” Reaney has been investigating opportunities for using damaged canola seed for many years, including research when he was at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and now at the University of Saskatchewan. He and his research team have tackled the topic from a number of angles. “When we first went into making canola into biofuels, [Canada] didn’t have the subsidies that were available in the United States and Europe. So we needed to take advantage of low-cost materials. For that purpose, we looked at seed that had been damaged either in the field or in storage,” he says. “First we studied how to get the oil out of the seed. A lot of damaged seed has lost its structure, and it is not efficiently pressed to recover oil. So we developed more efficient pressing and extraction technology.” Another early issue was that sources of damaged canola seed tend to be scattered all over the place, with amounts varying from year to year and place to place. Reaney says, “So we came up with the hub-and-spoke approach, to collect and bring the seed to some common locations for processing.” The researchers also improved the process of converting the oil into biodiesel. “Damaged seed produces quite low-quality oil with lots of different problems. So we had to figure out a very robust way of making biodiesel so that, no matter what, the biofuel would have good quality,” notes Reaney.Although canola biodiesel has advantages over biodiesel made from products like tallow and soybean oil, its properties are still somewhat different from petroleum-based diesel. So Reaney’s research group has developed processing technologies to improve such canola biodiesel properties as oxidative stability and low-temperature performance. He notes, “Low-temperature performance hasn’t turned out to be a big problem with canola mainly because when you blend it with other diesel fuel, like with a Canadian winter diesel fuel, it takes on the performance of that fuel.” One of the overarching themes of Reaney’s research is to develop techniques that are practical on the Prairies. “A lot of researchers will grab the latest technology, a ‘super-’ this or ‘ultra-’ that, and the equipment is very expensive. In my experience, western Canadian biofuel producers usually can’t use that kind of technology,” he explains. “So we look for the best biofuel properties – we can’t ever compromise on the properties of the material – that can be produced with rather conventional, simple, low-cost equipment.” Along with using damaged seed to reduce input costs, the researchers have been exploring other ways to improve the economics of biodiesel production. “[For example,] the catalyst for making biodiesel is actually quite expensive. We came up with a technology to lower the cost of that catalyst to about one-third of its original cost,” he says. They are also developing a novel approach that turns a biodiesel processing waste into a valuable byproduct. “We developed a special lithium-based catalyst for biodiesel production, and we’ve developed a method of converting the leftover catalyst into lithium grease [a heavy-duty, long-lasting grease],” says Reaney. “Lithium grease is broadly used all over the world – in heavy equipment, trains, planes, automobiles.” They are now scaling up the process for use at a commercial scale. Another current project involves making biofuels that are “drop-in” fuels. “Right now, biodiesel still has to be handled somewhat differently than [petroleum-based] diesel,” he explains. “But there are approaches to make it into a drop-in fuel. A drop-in fuel means it would have exactly the properties of diesel. You would be able to use it as is and it would require no special handling.” As well, the researchers are exploring motor oil technology that uses vegetable oils. “We have been working on trying to get the stability of these oils high enough for use in motor oil applications. We think we have some really good technology for this goal as well.”Reaney’s research on industrial uses for lower-grade canola has been supported by many agencies over the years such as Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. His research also has received support from such agencies as GreenCentre Canada and from such companies as Milligan Biofuels Inc. (formerly Milligan Biotech).Opportunities and challengesThe Canadian biodiesel industry has encountered a number of hurdles and has not grown as quickly as some people had hoped it would. For instance, the industry is still working towards meeting the increased demand arising from the Canadian government’s requirement for a minimum of two per cent renewable fuel content in diesel fuel. This requirement came into effect in 2011. According to Reaney, one of several issues hampering the Canadian biofuel industry has been the contentious food-versus-fuel debate, about the issue of using farmland to produce biofuel feedstocks. Reaney’s group was ahead of the curve on this issue by focusing on the use of non-food grade canola to make biodiesel. But beyond that, his opinion is that food production and fuel production are not mutually exclusive. “It isn’t food versus fuel; it is food and fuel,” he says. “All these biofuel industries actually produce more food than would have been produced had they not entered the biofuel industry, because they are always producing a side stream that is edible. So I think that issue has been addressed by the biofuels industry, but I don’t know whether the public has caught up.”Milligan Biofuels, based at Foam Lake, Sask., is one of the companies managing to weather the ups and downs of the Canadian biodiesel industry. Along with making its own improvements to biodiesel production processes, the company has adopted some of the advances made by Reaney’s research group.“Their research proved the ability to produce consistent biodiesel from damaged seed, and that’s our business model,” says Len Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Milligan Biofuels. The company manufactures and sells biodiesel and biodiesel byproducts, and provides canola meal and feed oil to the animal feed sector. All of its products are made from non-food grade canola, including green, wet, heated or spring-threshed canola. “Milligan Biofuels is built in and by the ag community for the ag community,” notes Anderson. “That’s why it is where it’s at and why it’s doing what it’s doing.” He outlines how this type of market for damaged canola helps growers. “It’s giving them an opportunity for a local, reliable, year-round market. It creates a significant value for damaged canola because we aren’t just using it for cattle feed; we’re using the oil to produce biodiesel. So we’re probably on the higher end as far as value created for damaged seed. It creates value for what was once almost a waste product, is what it boils down to.”
Oct. 1, 2013, Guelph, Ont. – Great Lakes Biodiesel has begun production in Welland, Ont., creating a potential new market for Ontario soybeans.The facility will be Canada's largest biodiesel plant, producing 170 million litres of biodiesel annually, according to a press release from Grain Farmers of Ontario. The feedstock for this facility will be sourced primarily from processors who currently crush soybeans grown in the province of Ontario.Grain Farmers of Ontario and Soy 20/20 have worked together to complete research to encourage the Ontario government that a made-in-Ontario biodiesel mandate is good for the provincial economy and good for the environment. Nationally, Canada has a two per cent biodiesel mandate, and with the expansion of production in Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario hopes to see the implementation of a two per cent provincial biodiesel mandate.
July 17, 2013, Halifax – The Government of Canada is investing toward the canola and soybean industries in Eastern Canada, announced Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture, in Halifax today.The Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance (ECODA) will receive an investment of up to $3.3 million from the AgriInnovation Program's industry-led research and development stream under Growing Forward 2 to conduct research focused on increasing the successful and profitable production of high-quality canola and food-grade soybeans on eastern Canadian farms, Ritz announced. This project builds on a previous investment of $3.1 million under the first Growing Forward's Developing Innovative Agri-Products and $747,000 under the Agricultural Innovation Program. ECODA is a not-for-profit organization based in Charlottetown, P.E.I., that works with producers, processors, exporters, researchers and governments to increase the economic value and export potential of the canola and soybean industries in Eastern Canada. One of the alliance's objectives is to make Eastern Canada a bigger player in the European and Japanese markets for food-grade soybeans and in producing high-quality canola to supply Canadian and international markets."The ECODA model is focused on gaining international market share by linking growers, processors and exporters to the scientific research they need to win on competitiveness, productivity and uniqueness in those markets," said Rory Francis, president of ECODA, in a press release. 
July 11, 2016 - According to a new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and Michigan State University, the use of nitrogen fertilizer on switchgrass crops can produce a sharp increase in emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and a significant driver of global climate change. Switchgrass is one of several crops poised to become a feedstock for the production of “cellulosic biofuels,” fuels derived from grasses, wood or the nonfood portion of plants. Though touted for being a clean energy alternative to both fossil fuels and corn ethanol, cellulosic biofuel comes with its share of complexities. Many of its environmental benefit depends, for starters, on how its crops are grown. “We’ve established that the climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels is much greater and much more robust than people originally thought,” said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science at MSU and coauthor. “But what we’re also seeing is that much of that climate benefit is dependent. It’s dependent on factors such as land use history and – as we’re seeing with these results – it’s dependent on nitrogen fertilizer use.” Led by former MSU graduate student Leilei Ruan and published this week in Environmental Research Letters, the study reports nitrous oxide emissions from switchgrass grown at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station when fertilized at eight different levels. “What we discovered is that there’s not a one-to-one relation between adding fertilizer and producing nitrous oxide,” Ruan said. “It’s not a linear relationship. After a certain amount of fertilizer is added, there is, proportionately, much more nitrous oxide produced than what you might expect.” The cause of that nonlinear relationship can be traced to the soil microbes responsible for converting nitrogen fertilizer to nitrates and then to nitrous oxide. Unlike humans, when some soil microbes are short on oxygen they have the option of using nitrate in place of oxygen. As the microbes respire these nitrates they produce nitrous oxide. Ruan says that fertilizing beyond what the plant can use and needs is likely providing an opportunity for these soil microbes to take up excess nitrate and produce nitrous oxide. The disproportionately adverse results of over fertilizing have the potential to effectively change the math on biofuel crops’ net climate benefit. An over fertilized switchgrass crop can reduce its climate benefits as much as 50 percent once the fertilizer’s production, use, and nitrous oxide emissions are subtracted from the crop’s carbon benefit. The study also measured the relationship between fertilizer and nitrate leaching, and found – also for the first time – that nitrate leaching is also disproportionately greater at high fertilization rates. Soil nitrate not converted to nitrous oxide is also available for loss to groundwater and then eventually to streams, lakes, rivers and wetlands, where it’s once again eligible to be converted into nitrous oxide. “If we’re ever going to realize the environmental potential of biofuels, we will need to have smart strategies for fertilizing cellulosic crops,” Ruan said. Potential strategies include developing nitrogen use calculators to help farmers determine how much fertilizer to use, or paying farmers for the perceived risk of yield loss as a result of lower fertilization. Robertson says future research in this area could focus on identifying which soil microbes are responsible for the nitrous oxide increase in order to develop management strategies that suppress them, or – sidestepping the microbes entirely – simply designing a plant capable of more efficient nitrogen use. MSU’s Stephen Hamilton and Ajay Bhardwaj also contributed to the paper. GLBRC is one of three Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers created to make transformational breakthroughs and build the foundation of new cellulosic biofuels technology.
July 6, 2016 - Weekly ethanol production in the United States hit a new high in June, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Average production for the week ending on June 10 was 1.013 million barrels per day. According to a report from the EIA, this marks the fifth time output surpassed the one million barrel mark. All of these instances have occurred since November 2015. For more on this story, click here.
April 6, 2016 - Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative, an Ontario-based farmer's cooperative, confirms that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Comet Biorefining to collaborate on the development of a sustainable agricultural biomass supply chain in southwestern Ontario. Comet Biorefining recently announced Sarnia, Ontario as the location of its commercial-scale biomass-derived sugar facility. The plant will require over 60,000 tonnes of corn stover or wheat straw per year producing dextrose sugar. The production of these sugars and co-products would support the production of bioproducts such as biochemicals and biofuels. The Cooperative Board of Directors has approved the jointly developed business plan for the agricultural biomass to sugar value chain in southwestern Ontario and is now engaged in completing its regulatory requirements to complete an equity raise anticipated to occur in the third quarter of 2016. The business plan includes a full assessment of the specific costs for the aggregation, transportation and storage of agricultural biomass (particularly corn stover from the farm to the gate of the cellulosic conversion plant) and the potential financial returns for participation as an equity partner in the cellulosic sugar production facility. The project was conducted by Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC). "Producers need to take an active role in developing new markets based on new technologies coming to market," said Dave Park, president, Cellulosic Sugar Producer's Cooperative and director, Grain Farmers of Ontario. "BIC approached a group of farmers in the area and we formed the cooperative approximately two years ago to enable this opportunity to develop." Dave Park further adds, "Farmers can expect this project to be the first step towards the future commercialization of a large scale cellulosic sugar business. Farmers in the region can add value to their crops without increasing their land base. Corn stover is a very sensible feedstock because it is like super-imposing a crop on top of an existing crop, while not taking away any land from food production. The development of this technology will also help farmers reduce GHG emissions and climate change impacts through reduced tillage and achieve the 3 pillars of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic." A commercial project would take advantage of the existing highly skilled trade workforce and infrastructure in the Sarnia area for construction of the plant. This initiative will further strengthen the reputation of Sarnia-Lambton as a hybrid chemistry cluster, creating jobs and attracting additional bio-based projects. "Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative shares our vision of developing a world class value chain to produce high quality dextrose from underutilized agricultural residuals, cost competitively," states Andrew Richard, Comet founder. "We are extremely pleased to work with the cooperative to help enable an expansion of the bio-economy in Ontario." "We are very excited at the prospects of establishing the first commercial scale agricultural biomass to cellulosic sugar value chain in Canada," says Dr. Murray McLaughlin, BIC Executive Director. Dr. McLaughlin adds, "Risk is inherent with all first-of-kind technologies and we encourage the governments in Canada to support these groundbreaking bio-based clean technology companies to ensure that Ontario and Canada are leading the world towards a lower carbon, sustainable economy." Bioindustrial Innovation Canada ( is a Canadian not-for-profit organization catalyzing the commercialization of Cleantech with focus on bio-based and sustainable chemistry-based technologies including advanced biofuels, biochemicals, biomaterials and bio-ingredients. Based in Sarnia, Ontario, the BIC mission is to create jobs and economic value sustainably in Canada.
March 8, 2016 - Two Alberta Innovates corporations have teamed up to provide funding for R&D projects that advance the knowledge and use of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), an advanced biomaterial. The new program, called CNC Challenge 2.0, is intended to support early-stage work to demonstrate technical feasibility of CNC in high-value applications with potential for commercialization. Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) and Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF) will support up to eight projects, and provide each successful applicant with the following: Up to $25,000 in funding for their CNC project research. Up to one kilogram of CNC from AITF's pilot plant. Access to AITF's researchers, capacity and facilities. Researchers and developers at Canadian institutions, companies or other organizations are invited to submit proposals via the AI Bio website Successful projects have the potential for ongoing support toward commercialization. CNC consists of nano-scale crystals made from cellulose (plant fibre), the most abundant organic polymer on earth. It is biodegradable, non-toxic, extremely strong and has other unique properties that offer exciting opportunities for a wide range of commercial applications. Alberta has one of the few pilot plants in the world capable of producing high-quality CNC in kilogram volumes. The plant is located on AITF's premises in Edmonton. Current leading-edge research in the province includes the development of CNC applications in the fields of energy, health, industrial coatings, electronics and the environment. "This is an excellent opportunity for small- and medium-sized enterprises to gain funding and material for their nanotech-related research," says Gordon Giles, director of forestry at AITF. "I'm particularly excited at the prospect of providing researchers and developers with high-quality cellulose nanocrystals made at our Edmonton pilot plant." "The first CNC Challenge funding program (1.0) yielded several interesting projects," notes Christine Murray, director of agricultural technologies at AI Bio. "We look forward to seeing other creative uses for CNC come forward which take advantage of its unique properties and great potential."     Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions is a research agency funded by the Government of Alberta, which invests in science and innovation to grow prosperity in Alberta's agriculture, food and forest sectors. Part of Alberta's research and innovation system, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF) is helping build healthy, sustainable businesses in the province. Through a suite of programs and services for entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, post-secondary institutions and investors, AITF provides technical services and funding support to facilitate the commercialization of technologies, develop new knowledge-based industry clusters and encourage an entrepreneurial culture in Alberta.
January 13, 2016 - In Germany, the national ethanol producers association says a report from the agriculture and food ministry, BLE, shows ethanol produced in country reduced GHG emissions by an average of 62 per cent in 2015 compared to the 50 per cent mandated by the Renewable Energy Directive in 2017. As a result, the industry is calling for higher blending beyond the current 3.5 per cent mandate. Current law foresees an increase to 4 per cent in 2017 but the industry wants to see the increase implemented beforehand. READ MORE.
May 20, 2015 - The Finnish research institute VTT has demonstrated that lignocellulosic biomass can be successfully converted into industrial biochemicals, in this case, pure BTX chemicals (benzene, toluene and xylene). The aim of this research, reports VTT, is to enable the use of wood-based chemicals to replace crude oil in, for example, plastics, fuels, medicine and paints. Demand has grown rapidly for chemicals generated from renewable sources, and particularly sought-after chemicals include pure aromatics, such as the BTX chemicals benzene, toluene and xylene, according to VTT. VTT has developed a method of manufacturing BTX chemicals by combining the gasification of lignocellulosic biomass, the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and aromatisation. Over 85 per cent of the separated benzene exceeded 90% purity and around 50% of the separated toluene was over 70 per cent purity, the institute reports. READ MORE  
US researchers have maintained that miscanthus, long speculated to be the top biofuel producer, yields more than twice as much as switchgrass in the US using an open-source bioenergy crop database gaining traction in plant science, climate change, and ecology research. "To understand yield trends and variation across the country for our major food crops, extensive databases are available — notably those provided by the USDA Statistical Service," said lead author Stephen Long, Gutgsell professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. He added: "But there was nowhere to go if you wanted to know about biomass crops, particularly those that have no food value such as miscanthus, switchgrass, willow trees, etc." To fill this gap, researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology created BETYdb, an open-source repository for physiological and yield data that facilitates bioenergy research. The goal of this database is not only to store the data but to make the data widely available and usable. | READ MORE.  
The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC) and its partners have almost finished putting all the pieces in place for a southern Ontario value chain to turn crop residues into sugars. Those pieces include a feasibility study, a technical-economic assessment and a collaboratively developed business plan. Some important steps still have to be completed, but they are aiming for processing to start in 2018.
Dec. 9, 2016 - The federal and provincial governments have teamed up to help implement a bioeconomy strategy for Northern Ontario. The two senior levels of government are providing a total of $216,792 to help put a plan into action aimed at creating new renewable energy opportunities throughout the North. Developed in 2015 by the Biomass North Development Centre, in partnership with the Union of Ontario Indians, the strategy will look to reduce policy and regulatory barriers for the industry, develop a skills and training road map for future workers and better inform the public and potential partners about biomass applications and concepts. “This is an opportunity of partnerships and benefits for all of the North,” said Dawn Lambe, the biomass development centre's executive director. | READ MORE.
Dec. 1, 2016 - An Italian company is interested in turning biomass into a new southern Alberta industry. And the Alberta government is providing the data to show what would work. Representatives from Alberta Economic Development and Trade, along with a spokesperson for Beta Renewables from Tortona, Italy, outlined the potential to Lethbridge County Council on Monday. Earlier this year, the county was one of five Alberta jurisdictions to sign onto a formal biomass mapping project across the province. The study found 12 million tonnes of biomass available annually in the form of straw and other byproducts of the region’s grain and speciality crop production – plus 633,000 tonnes of waste from livestock production. “This is good news,” Reeve Lorne Hickey said, as council members asked for more details. For Lethbridge-area farms growing flax, one councillor pointed out, it could provide a way to get rid of flax straw – too strong to be used like other straw. | READ MORE.
The president of a new farm co-op says it's working to sign up 200 to 300 members to supply corn stalks and leaves, also known as stover, as well as wheat stalks, to a proposed new plant in Sarnia, Ont., that will turn the biomass into sugar. The Sarnia Observer reports. | READ MORE
August 10, 2016 - A UBC professor’s flax research could one day help Canadian farmers grow a car fender. In a recent study, UBC researcher Michael Deyholos identified the genes responsible for the bane of many Canadian flax farmers’ existence; the fibres in the plant's stem. “These findings have allowed us to zero in the genetic profile of the toughest part of this plant and may one day help us engineer some of that toughness out,” says Deyholos, a biology professor at UBC's Okanagan campus. “With further research, we might one day be able to help farmers make money off a waste material that wreaks havoc on farm equipment and costs hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to deal with.” As part of his research, Deyholos and his former graduate student at the University of Alberta dissected thousands of the plant’s stem under a microscope in order to identify which genes in the plant's make up were responsible for the growth of the stem, and which weren’t. Due to the length of the Canadian prairie’s growing season, where flax is grown, farmers typically burn the stems, known as flax straw, as opposed to harvesting the material. In many European countries, flax straw is used as an additive in paper, plastics and other advanced materials such as those used in the production of automobiles. Currently, Canadian flax is used only for the value of its seeds, which can be eaten or broken down into flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is used in the manufacturing of paints, linoleum, and as a key element in the manufacturing of packaging materials and plastics. According to the Flax Council of Canada, Canada is one of the largest flax producers in the world with the nation’s prairie provinces cultivating 816,000 tonnes of the plant in 2014/15 on 1.6 million acres of land.Deyholos’ research was recently published in the journal Frontiers of Plant Science.
According to research by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, extraction with deep eutectic solvents (DESs) offer an efficient, sustainable and easy method for dissolving proteins from agrobiomass by-products. DESs are mixtures of solids that form a liquid solution at low temperatures when mixed in suitable ratios. The method has been tested on separating protein from BSG, rapeseed press cake and wheat bran, all of which contain significant amounts of protein. These food industry by-products contain significant amounts of fibre, which decreases their suitability as feed for production animals that are not ruminants. Brewer's spent grain responded best to protein separation with DES: almost 80 per cent of the protein in BSG could be separated, while conventional extraction methods can achieve no more than 40 per cent. The separation of other substances, such as carbohydrates, can be optimised through the choice of DES. This new protein enrichment method can particularly benefit breweries and animal feed producers, but there are hopes that after further research, this method could also find applications in the food industry. | READ MORE.
As OMAFRA’s industrial crop specialist based at the Simcoe Research Station, Jim Todd works with non-food crops that have a variety of industrial uses – including energy production, or as a source of specialty oils, chemicals or medicinal compounds.  Although predominantly used as an energy source, petroleum also serves as an industrial feedstock for the manufacture of many products used in daily life. For various reasons, countries around the world are searching for renewable replacements for petroleum. One promising alternative comes from the seed oils of plants. There are hundreds of different types of plant seed oils, many of which contain fatty acids that are structurally similar to those obtained from petroleum and so could be used in the manufacture of sustainable, environmentally friendly designer oils with specific end uses. Researchers from OMAFRA and the University of Guelph are currently investigating the potential of growing two unique plants, Euphorbia lagascae from the Mediterranean and Centrapalus pauciflorus from Africa, as sources of vernolic acid, a naturally occurring epoxidized fatty acid that can directly substitute for the synthetic vernolic acid made from petroleum, soy or linseed oil.  Epoxidized fatty acids are useful as raw materials for a wide variety of industrial processes including the synthesis of chemicals and lubricants.  Vernolic acid is most commonly used as a plasticizer in the manufacture of plastic polymers such as polyvinyl chloride or PVC.  The main goal of the three-year study is to test the suitability of Euphorbia and Centrapalus for commercial cultivation under Ontario’s climatic conditions. Trials to identify suitable varieties and provide information on the agronomic requirements for successful cultivation are ongoing. Other factors being evaluated include seeding practices, fertility and water requirements, harvesting methods, and weed/pest control. Oil has been extracted and analyzed to determine the range of total oil yield and vernolic acid content. Overall, both plants have performed well, but researchers have identified a few key areas that need further research.  Field germination rates remain low, indicating a need for breeding to improve this trait and efficient harvest of Centrapalus will require the development of specialized harvest and seed cleaning equipment. 
As foreign competition and falling U.S. demand are hurting American tobacco farmers, a Virginia company is preparing the crop’s second act as a biofuel. Tyton BioEnergy Systems of Danville is testing its technique for extracting the plant’s fermentable sugars on a small scale and plans to start industrial production in 2017, Peter Majeranowski, the company’s co-founder and president, said during a recent investor webinar. Tobacco has a lot to recommend it as a biofuel source. Most industrial crops are high in either sugar or oil. Tobacco has both, and Tyton’s plant breeders have doubled or tripled the content of both in the company’s specialized lines, Majeranowski says. Tobacco is relatively low in lignin, the compound that gives plants their rigidity. “It’s kind of a soft plant and requires a less aggressive or more mild process to break it down,” Majeranowski says. Easier breakdown leads to lower processing costs, he says. | READ MORE.
Jan. 20, 2017 - The Vancouver Declaration resulting from the First Ministers' Meeting in March 2016 saw the beginning of a co-ordinated national approach to carbon risk mitigation. Buoyed by support from high-profile business groups (including key oil and gas sector leaders), the First Ministers' Meeting on Dec. 9, 2016 in Ottawa saw the adoption of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which included several significant announcements regarding federal investment in green infrastructure, public transit, and clean technology and innovation. Canada's industrial powerhouse, Ontario, is ahead of the pack when it comes to low-carbon electricity policy, and has been for quite some time. Ten years after the launch of the province's early procurement programs for wind, solar, hydro and other forms of renewable energy, the province enjoys a vibrant renewable energy sector with leading-edge manufacturing capabilities, a coal-free electricity system, and a project development and finance sector that is active around the globe. Across the U.S. border, things have changed somewhat recently, at least, at the federal level.  | READ MORE.
June 30, 2016 - Earlier this week, the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico committed to advance clean energy and integration of energy resources, including renewables, by setting a goal of 50 per cent clean power generation in North America by 2025. They also committed to support the development of cross-border transmission projects, including for renewable electricity, and to conduct a joint study on the opportunities and impacts of adding more renewables to the power grid on a North American basis. The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity says it applauds the efforts of Prime Minister Trudeau, President Obama and President Peña Nieto to capitalize on the important economic and environmental opportunities provided by increased use of renewable electricity. “Having North America’s leaders make increased use of clean energy a priority clearly recognizes Canada’s renewable energy potential and illustrates how exporting some of that potential is good for Canada and North America, both environmentally and economically,” says Jacob Irving of the Canadian Hydropower Association. In 2014, 64.5 per cent of Canadian electricity generation came from renewable energy resources. “To build on today’s announcement a clear next step for Prime Minister Trudeau will be to work with provincial and territorial governments to develop a renewable electricity export strategy that capitalizes on Canada’s abundance of renewable energy resources,” adds Robert Hornung of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. The United States’ Clean Power Plan allows states to count imports from non-emitting sources toward their targets if the sources were developed after 2012. Canadian exports to the U.S. could see a three-fold increase as a result of the Clean Power Plan’s implementation. Canadian electricity exports surpassed previous records in 2015, with net export volumes of almost 60 terawatt hours (TW.h) and net export revenues of $2.8 billion.
The equipment used to maintan Ontario's Bruce Trail (which runs from Niagara to Tobermory) leaves a significant environmental footprint. Enter Canada’s soybean farmers and renewable, green lubricant products made from plant-based oils. | READ MORE

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