Hot Spots: The Top 10 Bioeconomy Places to Watch in Canada

August 28, 2017 |

When it comes to project action, Go North, young man. Canada’s hot and the technology’s cool.

The colder weather might be just around the corner for Canada, but when it comes to the advanced bioeconomy, think Hot Spots. The country is replete with ’em. From projects to process for new fuels, chemicals, materials and wealth creation – here are 10 places where the advanced bioeconomy future is being unveiled.

1. Ottawa, Ontario

The biggest Canadian story of the year stems from the November 2016 announce by Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced that Canada will adopt a national clean fuels standard, as an important step for climate action and the growth of Canada’s cleantech economy and green jobs.

The overall objective of a clean fuel standard would be to achieve annual reductions of 30 megatonnes (Mt) of GHG emissions by 2030. This reduction will provide a significant contribution towards achieving Canada’s commitment of 30 percent emission reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. This is like removing over 7 million vehicles from the roads for a year.

The story advanced materially this year. Environment and Climate Change Canada published a discussion paper to help guide consultations consisting of meetings, workshops, and technical working groups that will help inform the development of Canada’s clean fuel standard. You can access that here.

Another Ottawa story this year stems from Iogen’s HQ location there. We note that Iogen’s principal partner in cellulosic ethanol, Raizen, plans to scale up its cellulosic ethanol technology five-fold over the next two years to 40 million liters by 2018, a move that will make the fuel competitive with conventional ethanol. The Piracicaba facility is set to produce 14 million liters this year following its first 7 million liters produced last year. The company said seven or eight of its 24 conventional ethanol plants could receive bolt-on upgrades of the cellulosic technology.

2. Montreal, Quebec

While on the subject of mandates and clean fuels investments, in June we reported that Quebec’s provincial government unveiled its said it will spend $1.5B between now and 2019 to spur clean energy and reduce oil dependency.

As a part of the 2017-2020 Action Plan, Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand has announced the jurisdiction’s first ever volumetric requirements on renewable fuels (such as ethanol and biodiesel). The blending requirement for renewable fuels will start at 5% for gasoline and 2% for diesel, and the province has indicated its intention to escalate these levels after 2020. The Action Plan is the first of three such documents, which seek to implement the 2030 Energy Policy aimed at reducing Quebec’s dependence on fossil fuels by 40% between now and 2030.

3. The Sarnia, Ontario bioindustrial complex

From a project development POV, the center of the Digest cinematic universe right now is Sarnia, which has projects up and going up in record numbers.

In March, we reported that Comet Biorefining had successfully closed an investment round to fund its proposed cellulosic sugar production facility using stover and wheat straw as feedstock. PM Equity Partnership, the corporate venture and private equity investment arm of Philip Morris International, led the financing round that was also joined by Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and Sofinnova Partners. The investment brings the company closer to its goal of having its 60 million pound per year facility online next year as planned.

In support of that Comet project, we reported in June that the Cellulosic Sugar Producers Cooperative (CSPC) has so far recruited 20% of its 55,000-acre goal to secure the crop residue required for Comet Biorefining’s facility that should be online next year. The Coop has begun a campaign to recruit more members in Lambton County, Huron County, and Chatham-Kent, requiring a one-time investment of C$200 per acre and a C$500 membership fee. Members must join with a minimum of 100 acres of corn stover or wheat straw.

More than cellulosic sugar capacity is on the way. We reported (also in June) that S2G Biochem has started work on the company’s first standalone biorefinery demonstration plant that it intends to build in Sarnia, Ontario.

The commercial-scale facility will refine local, sustainable forestry and agricultural residues using S2G’s patented process to produce the lowest-cost and highest-value food ingredient xylitol available on the market today while co-producing value-add bioglycols for a new generation of consumer, industrial and packaging and products. The S2G facility is considered a major advance in biorefinery development in Canada. It will have the capacity to produce over 2,000 MT/year of high-value xylitol and coproducts utilizing a range of feedstocks from forestry and agricultural residues. Basic engineering for the facility is underway and construction is expected to begin in 2018. The build-out and operation of the facility is projected to create 13 permanent jobs with more required during construction and testing.

S2G BioChem Building Advanced BioRefinery in Sarnia: Production of Xylitol to Begin in 2018

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada has made a COMM SCI investment in Origin Materials, Sacramento, California, through BIC’s Sustainable Chemistry Alliance investment fund, as part of an investment round that will see Origin construct its first commercial scale demonstration facility in Sarnia by late 2018. Origin has developed unique and proprietary technology which allows it to transform multiple bio-based feedstocks into a broad range of chemical intermediates with large existing market demand. The company has successfully demonstrated the technology in its Sacramento pilot plant but chose Sarnia for its first commercial scale demonstration due to the unique nature of the biocluster which has been growing in the Sarnia region in recent years.

One of the most fascinating projects slated for next year is also located in the area. We reported in March 2017 that FORGE Hydrocarbons Corp. is developing a technology that transforms low-value fats, oils and greases into fuel. The objective of this project is to continue the accomplishments of the 200,000 litre per year pilot plant, which was supported by investments from Western Economic Development Canada and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. with the construction of a pre-commercial demonstration plant. The first of its kind in Canada, this lipid to hydrocarbon plant will produce renewable liquid hydrocarbons with a production capacity of 25 million litres per year.

4. Varennes, Quebec

Earlier this month, we reported that Greenfield Global Inc. announced that it has commenced a feasibility study to significantly expand operations for sustainable biofuel production at its biorefinery in Varennes, Quebec. The first ethanol plant built in Quebec, the Varennes distillery is a model for waste water management and energy efficiency. The plant already produces some of the lowest carbon fuel ethanol in North America and is on its way to becoming part of a state of the art biorefinery complex. The potential expansion stands to increase its annual ethanol production capacity by 70% (from 170 mly to 300 mly).  The feasibility study will also incorporate the adaptation of emerging advanced biofuels technologies using non-traditional feedstocks and processes, including cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, and renewable natural gas.

Meanwhile, Enerkem is developing its Varennes project as well. Most recently, we reported in May that Enerkem has received the lowest carbon intensity value ever issued by the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines for its ethanol product under the Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation. The confirmed carbon intensity is a shocker. Where gasoline check in at the testing center at 88 grams of CO2-equivalent per megajoule of energy, Enerkem fuel clocks in at 55 below zero. How possible? Enerkem’s product removes carbon emissions from the atmosphere, rather than adding to them. So, all you really need to do is blend three gallons of Enerkem fuel with two gallons of conventional gasoline, and you’ve solved the transportation climate change problem.

The VANERCO facility will be located on the site of GreenField’s current first-generation ethanol facility. Site preparation has started. Construction should begin in 2017.

The Chalice from the Palace: Canada’s NextGen Biofuels Fund backs Enerkem, Greenfield cellulosic ethanol project

5. Port-Cartier, Quebec

Port-Cartier? That’s next stop for Ensyn. We reported earlier this year that the Governments of Canada and Quebec will provide C$76.5 million in funding to AE Côte-Nord Bioenergy Canada Inc. for the production of renewable fuel oil from forest residues at its Port-Cartier facility. Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honorable Jim Carr, and Laurent Lessard, Quebec’s Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, made the announcement in Port-Cartier. The Port-Cartier plant will be the first commercial-scale facility of this kind in Quebec. The goal of the project is to convert forest residues into 40 million liters of renewable fuel oil per year. When upgraded into transportation fuels, this will remove up to 70,000 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year. Production of renewable fuel oil is set to begin in 2017.

The Government of Canada is supporting the project through a C$27-million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada and C$17.5 million from Natural Resources Canada’s Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program. The Government of Quebec is contributing C$32 million to the project, including C$10 million from Investissement Québec. In March 2016, to ensure the fiber supply for the project, the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks reserved 170,000 green tonnes of residues from government forests for the plant.

6. Prince George, British Columbia

Prince George is the point central for the Canfor, Licella advanced biofuels JV. In March 2017, we reported that the Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, pledged  a $13M  non-repayable contribution through Sustainable Development Technology Canada that will enable Canfor to further develop and demonstrate Licella’s technology — it will take what is a currently a waste product from its production processes and develop it into a low-cost biofuels product.

Canfor’s new biocrude could be refined by existing refineries into next-generation biofuels and biochemicals that can be easily integrated into conventional fuels markets. Canfor Pulp Products Inc is a top global producer of premium pulp and paper products that is also one of North America’s largest green energy producers — and we reported previously on the project, here and here. The news comes as Bains also tipped an investment of up to $20 million to support clean energy projects at the pre-commercialization stage. This investment, part of a $40-million joint initiative that includes matching funds from the province of British Columbia, will help companies with innovative projects at the prototype, field testing and demonstration stages. Interested parties will be able to submit their applications in early April 2017 to Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

7. Alymer, Ontario

Earlier this month we reported that IGPC is undertaking a C$120 million expansion of its ethanol plant in Ontario that will double its production capacity to 378 million liters per year, consuming 2,500 metric tons of locally-produced corn per day. The expansion that will come online by November 2018 includes the addition of a co-gen power facility that will capture waste thermal heat for use within the plant. Air Liquide is taking advantage of the expansion as well by co-locating a carbon dioxide capture facility.

8. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Also this month we reported that after 10 years of development, the Prairie Green Renewable Energy plant in Saskatchewan is finally set to break ground in the spring with an 18-24 month construction period. Long term financing is being finalized now and most permits have been secured. The 196 million liter per year facility will consume 25 million bushels annually of barley and five million bushels of peas for feedstock. Other crops can also be used if needed, according to the plant’s design.

9. Edmonton, Aberta

Here’s an intriguing development that left us somewhat taken aback. In July, we reported that Shell and SBI BioEnergy Inc. have reached an agreement granting Shell exclusive development and licensing rights for SBI’s biofuel technology. Edmonton-based SBI has a patented process that can convert a wide range of waste oils, greases and sustainable vegetable oils into lower carbon drop-ins for diesel, jet fuel and gasoline. Under the agreement, Shell and SBI will work together to demonstrate the potential of the technology and, if successful, scale up for commercial application.

10. Chester, Nova Scotia

Here’s an earlier-stage story that is very intriguing — materials and advanced fuels. In July, we reported that Sustainable Development Technology Canada is investing C$2.6 million in Sustane Technologies to support the construction of a new demonstration facility in Chester, about 65 km southwest of Halifax. At this facility, solid waste from landfills will be transformed into recyclable materials as well as high-value fuels that burn cleaner than fossil fuels. The emerging market for products converted from solid waste not only represents a new industry but will also result in less pollution and healthier communities.

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