Celebrating Canada’s 150th: A Short History of the Biofuel Industry in Canada

July 4, 2017 |

By Gerald Kutney, Special to The Digest

The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation arrived on July 1st of this year — it is a time to reflect upon the country’s achievements; this article covers the evolution of the Canadian biofuel industry – including gaseous, liquid and solid biofuels, and biomass power – from 1867 to 2017.

The foundations of the biofuel industry in Canada are found in the nation’s forest resources. A lumber industry had emerged for shipbuilding long before Confederation. Ottawa, itself, had only been officially founded in 1855, but sawmills had existed on the site (then called Bytown) since 1830. In the First Session of the First Parliament, on November 13, 1867, the importance of the “timber trade… of the province of Quebec,” was reported in Parliamentary records,[1] and the following week, the first bill on the industry, “the rafting of timbers,” had been introduced by Joseph Bellerose (1820-99).[2] At the time, there were fears that Canada was becoming only “hewers of wood;” the phrase was common in Parliamentary debates of the day, first expressed by the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, on May 3, 1872.[3] And by the end of the century, Canada was more than hewers of wood, as a new value-added forest products industry based on biofuels was emerging, which started with biomethanol.

Biomethanol

The first biofuels industry in Canada was based on the slow pyrolysis of hardwood.[4] An industrial-scale “destructive distillation” facility to manufacture methanol (“wood alcohol”) and charcoal[5] was opened by Edward Wilkes Rathburn (1842-1903) in Deseronto, Ontario, in 1887. A decade later, Arthur Peuchen[6] created a forestry-based chemical conglomerate, Standard Chemical Company Limited, whose primary products were methanol, acetate of lime, and charcoal. By 1918, sales of Standard Chemical had reached $7.6 million, and they operated an integrated biorefinery network across Ontario and Quebec:[7]

  • Slow pyrolysis
    • Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – 112 cords per day
    • Longford Mills, Ontario – 84 cords per day
    • South River, Ontario – 72 cords per day
    • Thornbury, Ontario – 48 cords per day
    • Donald, Ontario – 48 cords per day
    • Parry Sound, Ontario – 48 cords per day
    • Cookshire, Quebec – 48 cords per day
    • Fassett, Quebec – 48 cords per day
    • Lac Mercier, Quebec – 48 cords per day
    • Weedon, Quebec – 24 cords per day
  • Methanol
    • Longford Mills, Ontario
    • Montreal, Quebec – 4,000 imperial gallons per day
  • Formaldehyde (from methanol)
    • Montreal, Quebec – 3 million pounds per year
  • Acetic Acid (from acetate of lime)
    • Montreal, Quebec – 2 million pounds per year
  • Acetone[8] (from acetate of lime) – 1800 tons per year
    • Longford Mills, Ontario
    • Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (operated only during World War I).

In 1922, the noted pulp and paper chemical engineer, John Seaman Bates (1888-1991), reviewed the achievements of Standard Chemical and concluded:[9]

The plants reflect the general growth of the industry over a long period of years. The demand for acetone, methyl hydrate [methanol], formalin and other hardwood distillation products was very great throughout the war period and industry served the nation during the war crisis to an extent that few realize. The industry enjoys the benefits of competent centralized control and is in a position to make the most of the situation within limits of the uncertain economic and trade conditions that exist. It is a significant fact that a single well organized company handles practically all operations from the cutting of the wood to the manufacture and sales of the finished chemicals. Furthermore, the industry is now on a satisfactory basis of technical control, and science is being applied to the further development of derived products originating in the crude wood distillation.

During the early 20th century, wood was the major raw material to produce methanol, but was later replaced by more economic feedstocks, such as natural gas. Charcoal is still produced from hardwoods, but today, there are only two charcoal producers in Canada (Table 1), and methanol is not collected in their processes. Biomethanol processes have recently started up again, but the technology is no longer “destructive distillation” but gasification (Table 2).

Table 1. Charcoal Facilities in Canada

Company Site
Basques Hardwood Charcoal Riviere du Loup, QC
Maple Leaf Charcoal Sainte-Christine d’Auvergne, QC

 

Table 2. Biomethanol Facilities in Canada

Company Site
Al-Pac Boyle, AB
Enerkem Edmonton, AB

 

Dating back to the 1970’s (and continuing today), Canada has been a global leader in the use of biomass gasification[10] to produce biomethanol. A major research project into fluidized-bed gasification of RDF (refused-derived fuel) had been undertaken by the Canadian chemical corporation, CIL (Eco-Research), and a pilot facility was built in Kingston, Ontario. CIL abandoned the project, but the management team – John Wright Black, Keith Bircher, and John Chisholm – formed their own gasification venture Omnifuel Technologies. Omnifuel installed an industrial-scale facility of the process (10 teph) in 1980 at Levesque Plywood in Hearst, Ontario. The Hearst project was a technical, but not economic, success. Technology development switched from Ontario to Quebec, being taken over by Biosyn,[11] which developed a biomass-gasification process to produce methanol,[12] and built a demonstration facility (10 teph), in St-Juste de Bretennieres, Quebec.[13] Further progress on the technology took place at the University of Sherbrooke, starting in 1990, under the direction of Esteban Chornet.[14] In 1993, Kemestrie, a spin-off from the university, was formed to commercialize the technology, and five years later, Enerkem Technologies was created as a division of Kemestrie. A biomass gasification facility was open by Enerkem in Westbury, Quebec, in 2009, and five years later, a full-scale biomass waste-to-energy facility opened in Edmonton, Alberta.[15]

Bioethanol

Industrial (denatured) alcohol had long been produced in Canada, usually from the fermentation of molasses in the earlier years. Production rose during World War II to 65 million liters per year, where the industrial ethanol was utilized as a raw material to produce butadiene for synthetic rubber manufacturing.[16] As markets emerged for fuel alcohol, corn and other grains became major feedstocks. The first fuel-alcohol[17] company in Canada was Mohawk Oil (now Husky) in Minnedosa, Manitoba (methanol/ethanol), in 1980. During the 1980’s, the largest industrial ethanol facility had been Commercial Alcohols in Varennes, Quebec (70 million liters per year; closed 1991). A new company, also called Commercial Alcohols, opened a facility in Tiverton, ON, in 1989; Greenfield Global, as they are now called, is the largest ethanol producer in Canada (Table 3).[18]

A less common feedstock for ethanol production has been wood. The first cellulosic-ethanol-from-wood operation in Canada opened at Thorold, Ontario, in 1943; the Ontario Paper Company[19] fermented the sugars in spent liquor from the sulphite pulping of wood to produce 2,400 gallons per day of ethanol. A second Canadian facility was opened by Commercial Alcohols in 1948, across the river from Ottawa, in Gatineau, Quebec.[20] During the 1980’s, another cellulosic-ethanol plant using sulphite spent liquor was opened by Tembec in Temiscaming, Quebec. No sulfite spent liquor, cellulosic-ethanol facilities are now operating in Canada, since the closure of the Tembec facility in 2014.

On May 23, 1980, a Parliamentary Task Force on Alternative Energy and Oil Substitution had been formed. Their report in a section entitled Biomass Energy stressed the potential of cellulosic ethanol:[21]

The proposal to make ethanol from cellulose is very appealing as it would allow exploitation of Canada’s substantial cellulosic biomass resource, including wood waste, spruce bud-worm and fire-damaged wood, for feedstock… Unfortunately, there are problems in breaking down cellulose to sugars which can be fermented to ethanol…

Canada can become a world leader in cellulose-to-ethanol technology by encouraging the research, development and demonstration of novel processes already being developed in this country.

Another section of the report, entitled Canada’s Energy System Tomorrow, recommended the use of biofuels as a future energy source, which concluded:[22]

On the other hand, energy from cellulosic biomass, particularly wood, is an attractive alternative energy opportunity in Canada and seems well-suited to making a significant contribution to energy supplies… the Committee recommends that Canada develop methanol from cellulosic methanol rather than ethanol from food crops, for use as a fuel in the transportation sector. (The promise of producing ethanol from cellulose is also attractive but this process requires further R&D at the present time.)

In 1986, a paper by Energy, Mines and Resources Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Energy presented a brief overview of the leading developers of cellulosic ethanol technology in Canada.[23] The unfortunate timing of the paper in 1986 coincided with oil being plentiful again, and public interest in such technologies waned. A noted venture that forged ahead was Iotech,[24] which had been created in 1974 by Patrick Foody. The company began with research into steam-explosion technology, but later switched to enzymatic processes, and the name was changed to Iogen in 1986. Bioethanol from enzymatic treatment became the focal point of the business in 1997, and Iogen became a world leader in cellulosic ethanol development. In 2012, Iogen produced over two million liters of cellulosic ethanol in Ottawa, and two years later, a commercial facility using their technology treating bagasse was built at the Raizen facility in Brazil.[25]

A new generation of cellulosic ethanol technologies are currently under development, and fermentation ethanol remains an active sector in Canada. Ethanol production in Canada had reached 1.65 billion liters by 2016.[26]

Table 3. Bioethanol Facilities in Canada[27]

Compnay Prov. Type Capacity

MML/y

Enerkem Inc.-Westbury QC Cellulosic 5
Woodland Biofuels Inc. – Demonstration Plant ON Cellulosic 2
Iogen Corporation ON Cellulosic 2
Enerkem Alberta Biofuels LP[28] AB Cellulosic 38
Husky Energy – Lloydminster SK Sugar/Starch 130
Husky Energy – Minnedosa MB Sugar/Starch 130
GreenField Global – Varennes QC Sugar/Starch 175
North West Bio-Energy Ltd. SK Sugar/Starch 25
GreenField Global – Tiverton ON Sugar/Starch 27
GreenField Global – Johnstown ON Sugar/Starch 260
GreenField Global – Chatham ON Sugar/Starch 195
Suncor – St. Clair Ethanol Plant ON Sugar/Starch 400
IGPC Ethanol Inc.[29] ON Sugar/Starch 170
Kawartha Ethanol Inc. ON Sugar/Starch 80
Permolex Ltd. AB Sugar/Starch 45
Pound-Maker Agventures Ltd. SK Sugar/Starch 15
Terra Grain Fuels Inc. – Belle Plaine SK Sugar/Starch 150
# Plants = 17   1,849

 

 

Biobutanol

The market demand for acetone during World War I led to the production of acetone and butanol by fermentation by Gooderham and Worts.[30] The production company was known as “British Acetones, Toronto Limited,” which used the ABE (acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation) process in Toronto from May 1916 to November 1918. On April 3, 1919, Sir Albert Edward Gooderham (1861-1935), who had donated the facility and staff to the service of the British government for the war effort, sent a detailed report of his operations to Sir Frederick Lewis Nathan (1861-1933), Director of Propellant Supplies in London; the report began:[31]

I have the honour to submit herewith a report on the work done by the British Acetones Toronto, under the Weizmann process.

The report is lengthy, going into all details, but is well worth more than a casual glance. It sets forth the difficulties met with in making a commercial success of what had been little more than a Laboratory Experiment, and the means employed to overcome these difficulties. On our success I need not elaborate, as our output and exceedingly low percentage of spoiled grain (viz.: less than one-half of one percent) speaks more forcibly than any words of mine can do.

During the first fifteen months of operation, we shipped 2,162,000 pounds of Acetone…

When the Armistice was signed, I received orders to close down immediately. I called my staff together, in my office and thanked them all for the support that they had given the Company, and while thankful that the Great War was over, we all regretted that the very happy relations that had existed between us during the past two and half years was so soon to be served. “They all did their bit.”

Personally, I am most thankful that I had the opportunity of doing something helpful for these brave fellows at the Front.

No commercial biobutanol facilities are operating today.[32]

 

Biodiesel

Biodiesel production did not begin in Canada until 2005; the first plant being located outside of Montreal. There are nine plants operating today (Table 4). In 2013, Canadian production was 124 million liters.[33]

Table 4. Biodiesel Facilities in Canada[34]

Company Site Feedstock Capacity

MM L/y

ADM Lloydminster Canola Oil 265
Atlantic Biodiesel Corp. Dain City Canola/Soy Oil 170
Biox Corp.[35] Hamilton Animal Fats 67
Cowichan Biodiesel Co-op Duncan Waste Veget. Oil 0.2
Evoleum Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Multi-Feedstock 19
Innoltek Inc. Thetford Mines Multi-Feedstock 6
Milligan Biofuels Inc. Foam Lake Canola Oil 14
Noroxel Energy Ltd Springfield 5
Rothsay Biodiesel LLC Ville Ste. Catherine Animal Fats 45
# Plants = 9 591

 

 

Pyrolysis Oil

Canada was a pioneer in fast pyrolysis technology. Research in this country was pioneered at universities in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s: the University of Western Ontario, the University of Waterloo, and the Université Laval. This research led to the opening of some of the earliest industrial-scale fast pyrolysis facilities in the world, including Dynamotive, Encon, Ensyn and Pyrovac.[36] Only Ensyn now has a facility operating in Canada (Table 5). Work on the technology at Ensyn began when Robert Graham was a graduate student of Maurice Bergougnou (1928-2015) at the University of Western Ontario. The company was formed in 1984 by Graham and Barry Freel, and the first installation of the Rapid Thermal Process (RTP) took place in Manitowoc, WI (Red Arrow Products) in 1989, and a facility (capacity = 3 million gallons per year) was built outside of Ottawa, in Renfrew, ON, in 2006.[37]

 

Table 5. Pyrolysis-Oil Facilities in Canada

Company Site
Ensyn Renfrew, ON

 

Wood Pellets & Advanced-Wood Pellets

The Parliamentary Task Force on Alternative Energy and Oil Substitution in their report to Parliament, entitled Biomass Energy, had advocated for the production of wood pellets.[38] By the early 1980’s, Canada had one of the largest wood pellet capacities in the world, as BioShell (a division of Shell; closed 1992) built three facilities, each with a capacity of 125,000 tpy: Hearst, ON (operated 1980 to 1991), Iroquois Falls, ON (closed), and Lac Megantic, QC (opened 1982; purchased 1993 by Energex). The industry grew rapidly, especially in Western Canada, where the global trade of wood pellets was created. Today, there are about forty wood pellet facilities in Canada, with an annual capacity of four million tonnes (Table 6).

There has been active work into advanced wood pellets to produce a solid fuel from biomass with more coal-like properties; leading technologies in this regard are steam explosion and torrefaction. As discussed above, Iotech had been a pioneer in steam-explosion technology. Another Canadian firm, Stake Technology of Toronto, founded in 1973, built a continuous pilot facility at the University of Sherbrooke and another in Italy.[39] No manufacturing facility currently exists in Canada, but OPG-Thunder Bay utilizes steam-treated pellets (“black pellets”) imported from Arbraflame in Norway. A demonstration facility to produce torrefied biomass (“biocoal”) has recently been opened by Airex (Table 7).

Table 6. Wood-Pellet Facilities in Canada[40]

Company Prov. Capacity

Tonnes/y

CDN Biofuels Inc. BC 100,000
Chetwynd Sawmill BC 110,000
Energex Pellet Fuel Inc. QC 132,000
Foothills Forest Products Inc. AB 33,000
Fort St. John Sawmill BC 82,500
Gildale Farms ON 13,200
Groupe Savoie Inc. NB 60,500
H.J. Crabbe & Sons Ltd. NB 44,000
Hamilton Biofuel ON 55,000
Houston Pellet Limited Partnership BC 242,000
K.D. Quality Pellets ON 96,800
La Crete Sawmills Ltd. AB 77,000
Lacwood Pellets ON 16,500
Lauzon Recycled Wood Energy – Papineauville QC 63,800
Lauzon Recycled Wood Energy – Saint-Paulin QC 64,000
Marwood Ltd. NB 11,000
NorSask Forest Products LLP SK 16,500
North Country 100% Softwood Pellets AB 16,500
Okanagan Pellet Co. Inc. BC 66,000
Pacific Bioenergy Pellet Mill BC 385,000
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – Armstrong BC 66,000
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – Burns Lake BC 441,000
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – Quesnel BC 110,000
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – Strathnaver BC 242,000
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – Williams Lake BC 220,000
Premium Pellet Ltd. BC 203,500
Princeton Co-Generation Corp. BC 118,800
Rentech Inc. – Atikokan ON 121,000
Shaw Resources – Belledune NB 110,000
Shaw Resources – Shubenacadie NS 55,000
SPB Bio Materials ON Undisclosed
Stein Industries Inc. ON Undisclosed
T.P. Downey & Sons Ltd. NB Undisclosed
Thunder Bay Pellet Plant ON 49,500
Tolko/Pinnacle Pellet Plant – Lavington BC 297,000
Trebio Renewable Biomass QC 143,000
Urban Biofuels ON 27,500
Vanderhoof Specialty Wood Products BC 16,500
Vanderwell Contractors Ltd. AB 55,000
# Plants = 39 3,961,100[41]

 

Table 7. Biocoal Facilities in Canada

Company Site
Airex Beacancour, QC

 

Biomass Power

An early biomass power facility (75 kw) was installed in Calgary by Peter Anthony Prince (1836-1925) at the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company in the late 1880’s (closed 1928).[42] In 1978, the Federal government issued the Forest Industry Renewable Energy (“FIRE” – a wonderful Canadian acronym if there ever was one) program to encourage the forest industry to replace fossil fuels by biomass residuals.[43] There are now seventy biomass power facilities across Canada with a capacity of more than 2.4 GW.[44] The large-capacity facilities are listed in Table 8.

Table 8. Large-scale (>10 MW) Biomass-Power Facilities in Canada

Facility Prov. Capacity

MW

OPG – Atikokan[45] ON 205
OPG – Thunder Bay[46] ON 153
Al-Pac – Boyle AB 131
Domtar – Kamloops BC 76
Atlantic Power – William’s Lake BC 66
Nova Scotia Power – Port Hawkesbury NS 63
Canfor – Prince George BC 60
DMI – Peace River AB 52
Mercer – Castlegar BC 52
Tembec – Skookumchuk BC 51
West Fraser – Hinton AB 50
International Paper – Grand Prairie AB 48
Fibrek – Saint-Félicien QC 43
Fraser Papers – Edmundston NB 38
Conifex Power – Mackenzie BC 36
Atlantic Power – Hearst ON 35
Boralex – Senneterre QC 35
TransCanada – Grande Prairie AB 30
Emera Energy – Brooklyn NS 27
Northland Power – Chapais QC 27
Resolute FP – Dolbeau QC 27
TransAlta – Medicine Hat AB 25
Macquarie Power – Whitecourt AB 25
Fortress Specialty Cellulose – Thurso QC 24
Montenay – Burnaby BC 22
Riverside Forest Products – Armstrong BC 20
Kruger Energy – Brompton QC 19
Verdant Energy – Dapp AB 16
Kruger Energy – Corner Brook NL 15
Algonquin Power – Brampton ON 15
Northland Power – Kirkland Lake ON 14
Algonquin Power – Drayton Valley AB 12
# plants = 32   1,512[47]

 

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow of the Canadian Biofuel Industry

Before Confederation, wood was the dominant fuel for energy, and bioenergy was not surpassed by fossil fuels as the major energy source until 1906.[48] Between 1867 and 2017, Canada has been a pioneer and commercial leader in the biofuels sector, which can be grouped into three exceptional periods of innovation in Canada (and elsewhere):

  1. World War I
  2. The Oil Crises of the 1970’s
  3. Climate change of the new millennium.

Standard Chemical and British Acetones exemplify the early Canadian leadership in the biofuels industry, before the rise of petrochemicals. These companies were particularly known for their contribution of essential raw materials for munition manufacturing during World War I.

The second round of biofuel initiatives in Canada was heralded by the oil crises, along with new incentives from the government to replace fossil fuels. Progress was swift, and several biofuel-technology ventures emerged in the early 1980’s. Canadian ventures, such as Ensyn and Dynamotive, led the world in fast pyrolysis technology. Canadian wood pellet firms, such as Pinnacle Renewable Energy, would later forge the global trade in wood pellets. And the Canadian pulp and paper industry was among the early adopters of biomass power. An event of note was that the first time the term “biofuels” appeared in Parliamentary records was on May 12, 1981.[49]

The biofuels innovation of the early 1980’s came to an abrupt halt in the second half of the decade when oil prices had normalized. Public interest and the market-pull for these technologies disappeared as quickly as they had arisen. Many of the early technology developers failed in the aftermath. A few exceptional ventures survived – including Ensyn, Iogen and Enerkem – and are leading the third period of biofuels innovation in Canada, which started near the beginning of the millennium, being driven by the looming threat of climate change from fossil fuels. Today, there are over two hundred ventures in Canada involved in biofuel technology development and production.[50]

Canada has a history of disproportionately contributing (on a GDP basis) to the biofuels sector, and further development continues[51] by many of the more established Canadian companies (listed in the tables above), as well as newer ventures working on emerging technologies (Table 9). Over its 150-year history, Canada has become one of the global leaders in biofuel-technology development and commercialization.[52]

Table 9. Ventures in the Emerging-Biofuel Sector in Canada[53]

Company Technology
ABRI-Tech Pyrolysis, Biochar
Agrisoma Biomass – Carinata
Airterra Biochar
Bioamber Succinic Acid
Biocube Biodiesel
Biomass Secure Power Torrefaction
Borealis Wood Power Gasification – CHP
Canfor/Licella Hydrothermal Liquefaction
CelluForce Nanocrystalline Cellulose
CelluFuel Biodiesel
Comet Biorefining Sugars
Diacarbon Torrefaction, Biochar
G4 Insights PyroCatalytic Hydrogenation
Forge Hydrocarbons Renewable Diesel
Klean Industries Pyrolysis, Gasification – tires
PCS Biofuels Hydrothermal Polymerization
Pond Technologies Algae biofuels
Pyrobiom Pyrolysis
Pyrogenesis Gasification – MSW
S2G Biochemicals Biochemicals from sugars
Steeper Energy Canada Hydrothermal Liquefaction
Terragon Environmental Gasification – MSW
Titan Clean Energy Pyrolysis, Biochar

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Kutney, Ph.D. in chemistry, has two decades of executive experience with global corporations and entrepreneurial enterprises in the forest bioeconomy. He is the Executive Vice President of Emerging Technologies, Biomass Power, Biogass/AD, and Investor Services for Lee Enterprises Consulting, and Managing Director of Sixth Element Sustainable Management in Ottawa. The opinions expressed in the report are those the author, and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of Lee Enterprises Consulting.

 

[1] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Debates, 1st Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 1, p. 49.

[2] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Debates, 1st Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 1, p. 101; also see pp. 134, 148.

[3] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Debates, 1st Parliament, 5th Session, Volume 1, p. 124.

[4] Such technologies are of interest today to produce biochar.

[5] The first charcoal kiln was reported to have opened in 1812 (Warrington, C.J.S., and Nicholls, R.V.V. 1949. A History of Chemistry in Canada, p. 240. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Toronto).

[6] Presidents of Standard Chemical were:

  • 1897-1914: Arthur Godfrey Peuchen (1859-1914; he was one of the survivors of the Titanic in 1912)
  • 1914-1919: L. M. Wood
  • 1919-1924: David Gilmour (1867-?)
  • 1924-?: Meurig Lloyd Davies (1865-?)
  • ?-1951: K. S. McLaughton. During his term, the noted Canadian investor E.P. Taylor (1901-89) was Chairman; in 1951, Taylor took control of Domtar, who then acquired the chemical assets of Standard Chemical.

[7] Bates, J. 1922. Distillation of Hardwoods in Canada, Forestry Branch – Bulletin No. 74, pp. 27-8.

[8] During World War I, acetone was especially important as it was a raw material for the manufacture of cordite (smokeless powder; acetone was the solvent for nitrocellulose).

[9] Bates, J. 1922. Distillation of Hardwoods in Canada, Forestry Branch – Bulletin No. 74, p. 6.

[10] In the past fifty years, over fifty biomass-gasification ventures have opened in Canada.

[11]Biosyn was a joint venture between Nouveler (a division of Hydro-Quebec) and Canertech (a Crown corporation formed to promote biofuels, dissolved in 1984). An advisory committee to the project included Esteban Chornet (1942-) of the University of Sherbrooke, Maurice Bergougnou (1928-2015) of the University of Western Ontario, and John Black. Nouveler formed a joint venture with SNC to commercialize the technology (Biodev); a facility was constructed in French Guyane to produce biomass power (7 MW), but closed shortly after opening. The commercialization of the Biosyn technology was then taken over by Biothermica, formed by Guy Drouin who had led Biodev.

[12] In 1980, a Parliament report, entitled Biomass Energy, had promoted the production of biomethanol from the gasification of wood (Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, pp. 2036, 2038).

[13] Operated between 1984 and 1986; assets sold to BECESCO in 1989.

[14] For references to the early developments see, E4Tech 2009. Review of Technologies for Gasification of Biomass and Wastes, pp. 75-8; Chornet, E. 1996. Biosyn Genealogy, Bioenergy Lists: Gasifiers and Gasification; Reed, T.B., and Gaur S. 2001. A Survey of Biomass Gasification 2001, pp. 3.8-3.9.

[15] For a recent overview of Enerkem, see Lane, J. 2016. Methanol as a Chemical Platform: The Digest’s 2016 Multi-slide Guide to Enerkem, Biofuels Digest, April 12.

[16] Warrington, C.J.S., and Nicholls, R.V.V. 1949. A History of Chemistry in Canada, p. 263. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Toronto.

[17] In 1831, a patent for producing a fuel from a mixture of turpentine and alcohol (“burning fluid”) for lamps had been issued to John Ratcliff of Odelltown (Lacolle), Quebec (John Ratcliff, 1831. Canada patent 25).

[18] The fuel-ethanol market was spurred on by the Renewable Fuels Regulations requiring an average of at least 5% renewable fuel content in gasoline, which were published by the government on April 10, 2010 and came into effect at the end of the year (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2017. Current Regulations, Renewable Fuels Regulations; accessed May 21, 2017).

[19] The facility later produced vanillin; the first production of vanillin from wood (spent sulfite liquor) had taken place in Cornwall, Ontario, in 1937, by Howard Smith Paper Mills.

[20] Warrington, C.J.S., and Nicholls, R.V.V. 1949. A History of Chemistry in Canada, pp. 236-7. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Toronto.

[21] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, pp. 2032, 2034.

[22] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, p. 1920. A section of the report was on Biomass Energy (p. 2026), and recommendations on biofuels appeared on pp. 2246-8.

[23] Barclay, J.C., Hayes, R.D., and Greven R.G. 1986. The Technical and Economic Potential for Ethanol Production from Biomass Resources in Canada, p. 102, VII International Symposium on Alcohol Fuels, October 20-23, Paris. The cellulosic ethanol ventures listed in the article were: “Iotech Corp., Stake Technology, Forintek Canada Corp., St. Lawrence Reactors, Bio-hol (Weston Research), U. de Sherbrooke, U. of Guelph, Ontario Research Foundation, Queen’s Univ., U. of Waterloo, U. of Western Ontario, Acres Davy McKee, Stone and Webster, W.L. Wardrop, U. of Toronto, U.B.C., Canertech, National Research Council, Tembec Inc., Carleton, Univ., Manitoba Research Council, Institut Armand-Frappier, Wellington Engineering, U. of Sask., Saskatchewan Research Council, POS Pilot Plant and Labatt Brewing Co.”

[24] The name of the company was a play on words for IOU; in this case, it was I Owe Tech, referring to an engineering firm, Techtrol Limited (also owned by Patrick Foody), which sponsored the early research and development of the company.

[25] See Iogen, History of Iogen; accessed May 21, 2017; Reference for Business, Iogen Corporation, History of Iogen Corporation; accessed May 21, 2017; Lane, J. 2016. What’s Next in Cellulosic Biofuels?: The Digest’s Multi-Slide Guide to Iogen, Biofuels Digest, December 11.

[26] Renewable Fuels Association, Industry Statistics 2016; also see Natural Resources Canada, About Renewable Energy, Bioenergy; accessed May 21, 2017.

[27] Ethanol Producer Magazine, Canadian Ethanol Plants; accessed May 21, 2017. Also see Renewable Industry Canada, Industry Map; accessed May 21, 2017.

[28] The status of ethanol production at the Edmonton facility has not been publically reported; for a recent update, see Enerkem achieves all production milestones at its Edmonton biofuel facility, April 11, 2017.

[29] Expansion announced to 378 million liters per year.

[30] Also, briefly produced methyl ethyl ketone [MEK] from butanol, which started up just before the war ended and only produced ten tons of MEK.

[31] Gooderham, A.E. 1919. Report on British Acetones Toronto Limited, p. 49. The report of almost 700 pages provides exceptional detail of the process. Pictures of the facility can be found at Distillery District Heritage Website.

[32] Another company, Cosmos Chemical Company, in Port Hope, Ontario, was isolating a higher alcohol – amyl alcohol (pentanol) – from fusel oil (a by-product from fermentation) to produce amyl acetate (Warrington, C.J.S., and Nicholls, R.V.V. 1949. A History of Chemistry in Canada, pp. 262, 266. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Toronto).

[33] Natural Resources Canada, About Renewable Energy, Bioenergy; accessed May 21, 2017.

[34] Biodiesel Magazine, Canada Plants; accessed May 21, 2017. Also see Renewable Industry Canada, Industry Map; accessed May 21, 2017.

[35] Also, Sombra facility (ex. Methes), capacity = 50 MM L/y; currently being upgraded.

[36] For a review of early developments in this area, see Hogan, E. 1994, Overview of Canadian Thermochemical Conversion Activities; in Bridgewater, A.V. (ed.) 1994. Advances in Thermochemical Biomass Conversion, Vol. 1.

[37] For a recent overview of Ensyn see Lane, J. 2016. Renewable Drop-in Fuels at Scale: The Digest’s 2016 Multi-slide Guide to Ensyn, Biofuels Digest, November 21. In the past fifty years, eighteen fast-pyrolysis ventures opened in Canada.

[38] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, p. 2048.

[39] Stake subsequently became SunOpta, and in 2010, this technology was sold to Mascoma. For reviews, see Chen, H. 2015, Gas Explosion Technology and Biomass Refinery, Springer, New York, pp. 148-52; Lam, P.S. 2011. Steam Explosion of Biomass to Produce Durable Wood Pellets, Ph.D. Thesis, University of British Columbia, Chapter 1.

[40] Biomass Magazine, Canada Plants; accessed April 8, 2017.

[41] Rentech – Wawa (495,500 tonnes per year) was idled in 2017. Scotia Atlantic Biomass (93,500 tonnes per year) was put into receivership in 2017.

[42] Alberta Culture and Tourism, Electricity & Alternative Energy, Biomass in Modern Alberta History; accessed May 21, 2017.

[43] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, p. 2044.

[44] National Energy Board, Canada’s Adoption of Renewable Energy Power Sources – Energy Market Analysis – Biomass; accessed May 21, 2017; Natural Resources Canada, About Renewable Energy, Bioenergy; accessed May 21, 2017.

[45] Power generation lower than this as the facility is a “back-up” generating station.

[46] Power generation substantially lower than this as the facility only operates during periods of “peak demand.”

[47] Capacity does not include Northland Power in Cochrane, ON (42 MW) closed in 2015 and Becker in Hornepayne, ON (15 MW) closed in 2015.

[48] Sandwell, R.W. (ed.) 2016. Powering Up Canada: A History of Power, Fuel and Energy from 1600; see Chapter 5, MacFayden, J., Hewers of Wood: A History of Wood Energy in Canada, p. 129, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[49] Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources, House of Commons Journals, 32nd Parliament, 1st Session, Volume 126, Pt. 2, p. 1918.

[50] Only producers are listed in the tables above.

[51] The latest news in bioenergy and biofuel developments in Canada can be found at The Top Canadian Bioenergy Stories of the Week (“Top Cdn BE”).

[52] I would like to thank Ed Hogan, formerly of CanmetEnergy (Natural Resources Canada), for reviewing this article and providing useful comments and suggestions.

[53] Ventures listed in other tables in this report are not included in this table. Firms mentioned in this report are not endorsements of these firms or technologies.

About the Author

Dr. Gerald Kutney, Ph.D. in chemistry, has two decades of executive experience with global corporations and entrepreneurial enterprises in the forest bioeconomy. He is the Executive Vice President of Emerging Technologies, Biomass Power, Biogass/AD, and Investor Services for Lee Enterprises Consulting, and Managing Director of Sixth Element Sustainable Management in Ottawa. The opinions expressed in the report are those the author.

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