Connecting the bioenergy supply chain in a transitioning bioeconomy

Globally, there is an increasing sense of urgency, enthusiasm, and action surrounding clean energy developments. Efforts to strike a balance between environmental stewardship and growth of the economy present significant opportunities for technologies providing economic benefits while maintaining or improving the health of our planet. Bioenergy technologies are capable of meeting both of these criteria.

Canada is well positioned to develop a strong bioenergy industry. Almost half of Canada's forests are certified in compliance with world-recognized standards for sustainable forest management (43% of all certified forests worldwide)Footnote 1. Currently, biomass and renewable waste account for less than 4% of Canada's total energy production (500-600PJ)Footnote 2; yet an NRC-IRAPFootnote 3 study estimates the potential energy from sustainably harvested biomass to be greater than 2000PJ - an opportunity for Canada to play a leading role in the growth and development of the bioenergy industry.

Be ready to see more and more biomass to power installations as Frost and SullivanFootnote 4 estimates that the installed capacity of biomass to power installations in Canada will increase by approximately 10% from 2016-2020.

Affordable energy is key and the federal government's innovation agenda recognizes the need to move toward a low-carbon economy. The key drivers for increased deployment of bioenergy technologies are reductions in the cost of energy, reductions in greenhouse gases and legislation.

Traditional bio-based industries in Canada such as pulp and paper are transitioning toward producing new products, including bio-products and biochemicals. Advances in the industry allow for low-cost residues to be used as feedstocks, which are transformed into higher value products.

One could see similarities with the petroleum industry in that a majority of processed biomass will be used for energy, despite chemicals and bio-products providing much of the revenue. Using the bio refinery concept, industries will likely still use the majority of their feedstock to generate heat and energy but will maximize profits by producing different bio-products.

To support technology innovation in sectors such as the bioeconomy, NRC has developed a suite of R&D programs – 5 to 10 year efforts that focus our long-term capabilities to support innovation in key markets. Specific bioeconomy examples include NRC's programs on algal carbon conversion, bio-based specialty chemicals, and bioenergy for stationary energy applications.

As part of its bioenergy program, NRC has key expertise at the interface between the production of biofuels and the use of these fuels to produce heat and power. For instance, we are collaborating with partners to modify the properties of pyrolysis oil and the combustion characteristics of gas turbines to facilitate the deployment of these technologies.

We are also helping to address critical gaps limiting the integration of innovative technologies into the market. In part, this is accomplished by completing techno-economic assessments to identify and select the most suitable technology for specific conditions (location, type of feedstock, etc.).

NRC understands that technologies at varying levels of development require different types of support. More mature technologies can be lower risk, but often fail to offer the requisite performance levels. Innovative technologies offering substantial performance improvements are often too risky for end-users and can benefit greatly from NRC's ability to reduce risks associated with technology development. NRC can also assist with improving overall system performance.

We support stakeholders with targeted technology development and access to unique facilities. We also offer unparalleled expertise and collaborative technology development to support, build and grow all segments of the value chains of targeted industries.
NRC, through concierge services, IRAP representatives, and our researchers, is committed to helping your organization innovate and achieve your business goals at all stages of technology development. In future issues of this newsletter, we will continue to share progress in this sector and highlight opportunities for partnership. Let's exchange and collaborate!

By Jonathan Martin, Program Leader, Bioenergy


Footnote 1

Forest certification in Canada

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Footnote 2

Bioenergy and biofuels Canadian industry and market opportunities (PDF, 797  KB)

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Footnote 3

National Resources Canada - Additional Statistics on Energy

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Footnote 4

Frost and Sullivan, Global biomass power market 2016, page 80: Annual Installed capacity Forecast by country

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