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From July 22nd to 24th, BioFuelNet Canada, a Network Centre of Excellence (NCE), held its annual Advanced Biofuels Symposium in downtown Montreal.  With over 300 attendees, the Symposium brought together academic, industry, government, and non-governmental organization representatives to share ideas and advances in the development of a vibrant Canadian advanced biofuels industry.

The keynote addresses by Jim Lane of the Biofuels Digest and Frank Des Rosiers of Natural Resources Canada set the stage for attendees by emphasizing the need to address climate change using biofuels while understanding the challenging market and operating conditions faced by advanced biofuels producers.  This theme of bioeconomy development, with its significant societal and environmental benefits, facing the realities of business operation, capital raising, and technology development continued throughout the Symposium with sessions including What’s delaying biojet?, which discussed barriers to biojet adoption by airline, Biofuels in a shifting energy landscape, which focused on the impact of low oil prices on advanced biofuels commercialization, and Opportunities and challenges related to purpose-grown feedstock production, which addressed development of biomass crops for biofuels feedstock.

Frank and Jim panel

First plenary session of the Symposium – International perspectives: biofuels in a shifting energy landscape

A primary reason for BioFuelNet Canada’s creation is the immense potential to develop advanced biofuels and the bioeconomy in Canada based on the country’s extensive biomass resources and expertise in management and conversion of those biomass resources.  This potential was highlighted in the plenary session Seizing the opportunity: Canada’s potential advantage in supplying the biofuel sector, which included speakers from industry, government, and academia.  As identified by the speakers, growing the bioeconomy in Canada requires policy that recognizes the environmental and societal value of advanced biofuels and an industry approach that understands the great diversity of biomass resources across the country and tailors commercial activities to match resources with attractive markets. While advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol or biojet, may be appropriate in some locations, other market opportunities, such as remote aboriginal communities, will require a different strategy.

It is the job of BioFuelNet’s researchers to assist with identification of market opportunities for Canadian biofuels, bioproducts, and bioenergy, both domestically and abroad; development of feedstock supplies and strategies; and development of technologies to convert Canada’s abundant biomass resources into products that are demanded by customers.  It was clear from the presentations at the Advanced Biofuels Symposium that BioFuelNet researchers and partners have made great strides over the past three years to provide value to the Canadian advanced biofuel industry, but that significant bioeconomy development opportunities remain untapped.

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