October 26, 2008

Canada's biofuels promise

An article giving an overview of Canada's bioenergy potential has been published on the Renewable Energy World.com website.

The author, Douglas Bradley, is president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association (CANBIO) a national, industry-driven, non-profit organization supporting promotion and use of bioenergy.

If possessing sustainable quantities of biomass alone is the measure of bioenergy potential of a country then Canada should be a world leader in bioenergy. Not only are its forests and thick farming belts teeming with biomass, its vast size and small population means that there is more than enough to satisfy the national hunger for bioenergy with plenty of sustainable supplies to export.

It has implications for global warming as well.

We need to see this as a great opportunity to reduce emissions by turning the massive amounts of forest residue, much of which is sitting at roadsides, into bioenergy. Using this fibre for energy enables us to use less fossil fuel, resulting in an immediate net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. This forest fibre doesn’t compete with food production, making it an attractive and sustainable renewable resource. Some innovative companies and municipalities have already integrated bioenergy into their processes, either as an energy resource, or as bioenergy producers – and they are thriving.

In his article, Putting Canada on Track
The keys to a bioenergy-rich future Bradley depicts the major drivers that make development desirable, the status of some biomass feedstocks and their locations, and then he spotlights the major players that are leading development. Included are Iogen, http://www.enerkem.com/index.php?module=CMS, Lignol Energy Corp, Dynamotive Energy, Woodland Biofuels, and Advanced Biorefinery with a brief description of how they fit in the fabric of Canadian bioenergy technologies.

He concludes by suggesting how Canada can "catapult bioenergy development...
This year has been the most exciting yet in terms of bioenergy development in Canada. But for Canadian bioenergy to catch up with its EU counterparts, a number of key barriers need to be addressed. One of the most visible problems facing small and medium-scale biomass heat and power projects is the requirement that any steam installation have a steam engineer on-site 24-hours per day. The high staffing cost simply destroys the economics of most projects under 17 MW in Canada. In Europe, different guidelines exist for smaller power plants and this has helped small and medium-scale biomass heating to thrive. Other barriers that exist for small and medium-scale projects are high capital equipment costs, where a government subsidy of around 25% is sorely needed to make a strong business case for potential investors. And such an incentive would certainly help the government achieve GHG emission targets. CANBIO is creating an alternative proposal to the 24-hour a day requirement, and is working with government to propose better solutions. The Ontario and Quebec government’s announcement of an emission cap-and-trade system is a step in the right direction, but only a strong, nationwide carbon-trading system can have a real impact on bioenergy development. Nonetheless, while there is much work to be done to develop favourable market conditions in Canada, bioenergy can provide one of the sustainable solutions to combat climate change and there are plenty of opportunities for international investors, technologies and buyers.

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