Other renewables

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

June 10, 2016 - Plant science researchers at the University of North Texas have found potential new pathways for the creation of plant-based bioproducts. The research is outlined in a new article in the journal Nature Plants.

The UNT research team was working as part of the US Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center coordinated by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The team looked into the roles of enzymes that convert amino acids into lignin in Brachypodium, a fast-growing model grass with a sequenced genome. Lignin is a substance that makes plants woody and firm, and, although it is an impediment to the processing of feedstocks for biofuels, it can be used to create a variety of bioproducts, including materials such as carbon fiber.

"As we studied the way different amino acids are converted to lignin, we found that there may be a new and unrecognized pathway for making lignin in grasses," says UNT distinguished research professor Richard Dixon. "A new pathway means potential for engineering more lignin in plants that don't possess that pathway, as well as an additional way of modifying lignin in grasses. This provides new opportunities for the synthesis of high value, high volume bioproducts that could significantly improve the economics of the bioenergy industry."

Dixon is the director of UNT's BioDiscovery Institute, one of UNT's Institutes of Research Excellence.

The research was supported by a Barrie Foundation Fellowship, the University of North Texas, and the BioEnergy Science Center which is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

March 10, 2016 - An Edmonton company is reaching the final stage of its project to build a biorefinery that will convert non-food canola oil and waste fats into next-generation, renewable transportation fuels that can replace or blend with conventional fuels.

The company, SBI BioEnergy (SBI), has been working on scaling up its novel "catalytic" processing technology for the past three years, thanks to $1.4 million in funding from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio). The process creates no emissions, generates no waste and costs less than other alternative fuel technologies.

In just a few weeks SBI expects to move into its newly built facility in the Edmonton Research Park, which will house a demonstration refinery capable of producing up to 10 million litres of renewable fuel per year. Commissioning the plant will take several months, but SBI hopes to start producing by year's end. The company's next goal will be to build a full-scale commercial biorefinery that will produce up to 240 million litres/year by 2018.

SBI is able to produce renewable diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. AI Bio provided the funding to SBI in 2013 to advance its proprietary process from the lab to a demonstration-scale plant.

"Public investment helped move this innovation along to the stage where SBI has shown it can produce these unique, drop-in and replacement fuels derived from non-food Alberta farm products, and do so at a larger scale" says Steve Price, CEO of AI Bio.

"This will not only provide a new market for agricultural producers and companies, it will also help to diversify the provincial economy and bring environmental benefits by filling a technological gap and advancing the renewable fuel industry in Alberta."

SBI uses a proprietary catalyst instead of hydrogen in its processing. It uses no water or chemicals and generates no waste. In addition, the process is continuous rather than producing fuel in batches, so further efficiencies are achieved.

"This is new technology, invented in Alberta. It comes at the right time in the right place and the market is huge," says SBI president and CEO Dr. Inder Pal Singh, a chemist who founded the company. Alberta is currently importing 300 million litres per year of renewable diesel, primarily from overseas, to blend with conventional fuel, he notes.

"AI Bio funding was critical in helping us move from proof of concept bench scale to the demonstration stage," Singh says. "AI Bio also assisted me in making the right connections because (the agency) works with so many people. This has been very helpful."Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions is a provincial government agency that leads and co-ordinates science and innovation to grow prosperity in Alberta's agriculture, food and forest sectors.

In addition to AI Bio funding, SBI has received about $460,000 in support from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures.

Also on March 10, the Alberta government announced the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) has earmarked a $10 million contribution for SBI to continue its work.

SBI Background
SBI BioEnergy uses naturally occurring plant oils and waste fats to make its clean, renewable transportation fuels (diesel, gasoline and jet fuel). Feedstocks include off-grade canola oil, waste cooking oil, animal fat from rendering plants and "tall oil," a natural byproduct from wood pulp operations. SBI can also use other non-food oilseeds (such as camelina and carinata mustard) from crops grown on marginal land unsuited for food production.

SBI is in negotiations with major energy companies to supply them renewable diesel and renewable gasoline. Commercial refiners are currently importing alternative fuels for blending with conventional product to meet legislated fuel standards. SBI also plans eventually to market renewable jet fuel.In addition to renewable fuels, the SBI technology produces a co-stream of high-purity glycerine, a value-added chemical that can be sold for the manufacture of food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Because the chemical structure of SBI's renewable fuels is identical to petroleum-based products, it is a step up from other alternative fuels such as biodiesel. Renewable fuels bring significant advantages – they can fully replace conventional, petroleum-based fuels with no engine modifications required or they can easily be blended with petroleum products (referred to as a drop-in), says SBI's president and CEO, Dr. Inder Pal Singh.  For these reasons, refiners prefer renewable diesel over biodiesel, says Singh. Biodiesel does not blend freely with petroleum diesel, and requires considerably more infrastructure for storage, transportation and blending. SBI's capital cost is 75 per cent lower and its operating cost is about 50 per cent lower, compared to other biorefineries, he says.

February 29, 2016 - Renaissance BioScience Corp., a leading global yeast technology company, is pleased to announce that it will receive a non-repayable contribution of up to $50,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) for research and development supporting the company's program in developing novel biofuel yeast strains.

"We are pleased to receive funding and advisory services from NRC-IRAP  in support of our innovative biofuel yeast strain R&D program," said Dr. Matthew Dahabieh, Head of Research of Renaissance BioScience Corp. "Our novel approach to developing biofuel yeast strains with superior properties has the potential to deliver a valuable addition to the global energy marketplace and we thank NRC-IRAP and the Government of Canada for its support of our work."

Renaissance BioScience Corp. is a privately held applied life sciences company that develops yeast-based platform technologies to solve industrial efficiency and consumer health problems in the food, beverage, alcohol, biofuel and pharmaceutical industries.

The wholly owned commercial subsidiaries of Renaissance BioScience Corp. include Renaissance Yeast Inc., which commercializes H2S-preventing wine yeast; Renaissance Ingredients Inc., which commercializes acrylamide-reducing baker’s yeast; and Bright Brewers Yeast Inc., which commercializes beer yeast technologies.  Detailed information about the Renaissance group of companies can be accessed at www.renaissancebioscience.com.

February 2, 2016 - Two types of extraction techniques have been developed by Ontario researchers at the University of Toronto that can turn tree bark into desirable liquid ingredients for products like environmentally friendly adhesives and foams.

And the technology, which is now ready for commercialization, might have application for agricultural feedstocks like crop residues, too, says project leader Dr. Ning Yan, a professor in the Faculty of Forestry and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, and Endowed Value-Added Wood and Composite Chair at U of T.

“We hope to expand the work we’ve done to develop the bark extraction techniques and the resin formulations to convert the liquefied bark into adhesives to other feedstocks,” she explains. “It could be transferrable to agriculture, whether there are biomass residues as well, not just in forestry.”

The four-year Bark Biorefinery project that just wrapped up in 2015 focused on finding higher value for forest residues that are produced in high quantities in sawmills.

Bark, for example, typically has no real value-added applications and because it is rich in many types of chemicals, it poses both fire hazards and risks to the environment.

Its chemical composition, though, is very similar to wood cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose, and it contains a family of chemicals called extractives because they can usually be easily extracted by using water.

Their goal was to remove the phenolic compounds from the bark and use them in products where they could be substituted for petroleum-based ingredients.

In addition to the extraction techniques, Yan and her team also developed technology to turn the liquefied bark extracts into bark-based phenolic adhesives, with some successful outcomes.

“We have done a lot of resin formulation work and we have benchmarked successfully to commercial products used in particle board, plywood glues, and in panel-making,” Yan explains. “If you substitute 30 per cent phenol for bark extractives, the adhesive properties are comparable to commercial adhesive products.”

Researchers at the Bark Biorefinery also developed technology that can convert bark into polyols, which are used to make rigid polyurethane foams in the automotive and construction sectors, as well as invented bark-based epoxy resin.

Of the three major chemical platforms, though, it’s the bark-based glue that is the closest to market-readiness. Yan has completed some pilot scale extraction trials with industry partners with the adhesive and is currently trying to move it into commercialization.

“Our next phase is to find companies to use this adhesive in their commercial projects so we can conduct verification of our technology in commercial environments,” she says. “We are at lab scale in most other things but have already completed some pilots with the adhesive.”

To help in the search for suitable commercialization partners, an engineering design firm has drawn up plans for what an extraction facility next to a pulp mill could look like, she adds.

The Bark Biorefinery project was supported by the Ontario Research Excellence Fund.


September 22, 2015 - A new vegetable oil-based multi-purpose lubricant for sale in Canada is about to become a bit more local.

Sept. 16, 2015 - Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) has launched a new funding program - Alberta Bio Future, Research and Innovation - aimed at advancing knowledge that accelerates growth of new bioindustrial products or bioindustrial technologies for the benefit of Albertans.

Discovery and developmental research are strategic priorities of Alberta Bio Future (ABF) – AI Bio's flagship bioindustrial program.

Bioindustrial products from Alberta – derived from sustainable agricultural or forest biomass – are already being used in several sectors, including the personal care, chemical and energy industries, as well as construction and manufacturing. These bioproducts are helping to meet the world's growing demand for 'green' solutions; they have desirable qualities for the manufacture of goods and materials while also being environmentally friendly.

"Alberta is a prime location for a thriving bioeconomy. We have abundant, renewable agriculture and forest resources, advanced infrastructure and highly qualified personnel," noted Steve Price, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "But this is an emerging field into new areas of science. More investigation is required to increase basic knowledge, and to learn how to take concepts out of the lab and turn them into new industrial bioproducts and biotechnologies."

The ABF Research and Innovation program has a total $4.5 million in available funding. Project funding amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the quality and scope of the project. In addition to funding, AI Bio assists researchers and companies with advice and connections.

Researchers, companies or industry groups based in Alberta, and researchers conducting projects that benefit Alberta, are invited to apply by submitting a Letter of Intent. The deadline is Oct. 28, 2015 at 4 p.m. MT. Eligibility requirements and other important details are available here.



January 23, 2015 - Using technology that was only a “vision” two decades ago, a Nova Scotia researcher hopes to help farmers make gasoline and medical drugs from manure and other waste.

“The farmers are struggling,” Sophia Quan He, an assistant professor in Dalhousie University’s faculty of agriculture, said in an interview.

“So if we can really make some fuels and chemicals from this kind of agriculture waste, potentially, hopefully, we can create new jobs and even create a new industry within this agriculture umbrella.”

The chemical engineer and her team are taking what’s known as low-value biomass or waste from the farm, such as straw and food processing waste, along with forestry waste like branches and sawdust and even algae, to make an economically viable alternative to gasoline, diesel and other petroleum-based products.

The technology is called hydrothermal liquefaction and works like a pressure cooker, He said.




December 17, 2014 -  University of Guelph (U of G) researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially “wet” waste that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure to transport waste and produce energy from it.

Scientists have struggled to find uses for wet and green waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips or sawdust, is easier to use for generating power. Often, wet farm waste materials break down before reaching their destination.

Researchers led by engineering professor Animesh Dutta, director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) at U of G, have found a solution: pressure cooking.

Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants.

Dutta said the research, which is published this week in the journal Applied Energy, shows that in a lab setting, biofuels can produce the same amount of energy as coal.

“What this means is that we have a resource in farm waste that is readily available, can produce energy at a similar level to burning coal, and does not require any significant start-up costs,” said Dutta.

“We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment. It’s a closed-loop cycle, meaning we don’t have to worry about external costs.”

Using excess food, green and wet waste to reduce the carbon footprint is drawing a lot of interest in Europe, he said, but so far it has proven unfeasible in North America.

Coal is more readily available in North America. Biomass is highly rich in alkali and alkaline earth metals such as silicon, potassium, sodium and calcium. The presence of these metals in farm waste damages pipes at power plants during combustion.

The new biofuel product made by the BRIL researchers produces a product that has less alkali and alkaline earth metals, allowing them to be used at power plants.

“We’re able to produce small amounts of energy in our lab from these biofuels,” said Dutta.

“The next step is to take this outside of the lab. We have a number of industry partners and government ministries interested in this technology. Essentially, the agri-food sector could power the automotive industry.”

Dutta said large pressure cookers located near farms could accept and cook waste for transport to energy plants.

“We’re looking at a timeline of five to seven years, depending on the funding,” he said.

“Once we have a commercial system set up, we’ll be self-sufficient. It can reduce our energy costs and provide an environmental benefit. It’s going to change the paradigm of energy production in North America.


November 21, 2014 - Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.

“The unique aspect of our study is that it provides detailed information about where these crops can grow, in terms of their location and stability over time, which has not been done in the past,” said U. of I. atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain, who led the study with agriculture and consumer economics professor Madhu Khanna.

Although corn has been the main feedstock used for ethanol production, relying solely on corn is not sustainable because of its impacts on the environment and food prices.



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