New Year, New Questions, New Possibilities

The Canadian industry has innovative producers pursuing the opportunities in the broader bioeconomy, writes Andrea Kent of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. Canada is well positioned to become a leader in advanced biofuels and bioproducts.
By Andrea Kent | February 12, 2015

Albert Einstein said, “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” Understanding the need for change is standard operating procedure for innovators like Einstein, and the ethanol industry is really no different.
If there is one way to describe the path of the Canadian renewable fuels industry today, it is through innovation, an evolution beyond traditional production methods, and products.

The Canadian industry is rich with innovative producers looking at pursuing the opportunities in the broader bioeconomy. We are witnessing the emergence of diversified biorefineries, built on the existing renewable fuels platform, but able to commercialize a number of different bioproducts, using a variety of different feedstocks. With a natural abundance of biomass, Canada is well positioned to become a global leader in the development and production of advanced biofuels and bioproducts.

We have seen this happening across our industry already. Enerkem, in a partnership with the City of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta, recently designed and built the first industrial scale waste-to-biofuels facility in the world, now producing methanol from municipal solid waste with conversion to ethanol expected this year. This facility uses Enerkem’s proprietary thermochemical process, a technology that has received international attention, with partnerships for production facilities emerging in Europe and China.

GreenField Specialty Alcohols Inc., better known for distilleries producing corn-based ethanol and industrial alcohols, designed and built a biomass pretreatment system called the bazooka, capable of processing agricultural residues and woody biomass into pure streams of cellulose and hemicellulose sugars.

IGPC Ethanol Inc. is the first Canadian adopter of ICM’s fiber separation technology that fractionates the corn kernel at the front end of the fuel making process. This technology allows IGPC to take a fibrous portion of corn kernel and convert it into next-generation biofuels and next-generation bioproducts.
Enhancing the strong progress of the Canadian renewable fuels industry depends on ensuring the continuation of strong mandates, developing broader market access for producers, a fair valuation for greenhouse gas reductions, and building out infrastructure, ensuring Canadians have choice at the pumps.

These forward looking action items were a primary focus of the CRFA’s first annual Canadian Bioeconomy Conference.  While we addressed the needs of our existing renewable fuels producers, we also looked at the opportunities arising from where our industry is going, from biofuels to bioeconomy.

Like the U.S., we are all looking at the falling price of oil and what it means for the Canadian economy and our ethanol industry. Commodity prices for ethanol and corn, the fluctuating Canadian dollar, and a federal election on the horizon, all promise to make 2015 a dynamic year for Canadian producers and policy makers alike.

It also means that we will need to keep doing what we do best: innovate and adapt.

Author: Andrea Kent
Canadian Renewable Fuels Association