BioFuelNet is predicated on a thorough understanding of the full value chain of biofuel production and use. In order to better address the barriers to a thriving advanced biofuels industry and to better engage strategic sectors, BioFuelNet is launching a new initiative: Task Forces. This new initiative is a major component of BioFuelNet’s knowledge translation activities, as the Task Forces will involve stakeholders from industry and government who may benefit from BioFuelNet’s expertise. The Task Forces reflect a coordinated effort to improve the process efficiencies and economics and to promote the mutual understanding of the main barriers along the value chain. Meetings of the platforms occur twice per year (each). Participation in at least one of the integrated biorefinery platforms is a prerequisite of BioFuelNet project funding.
Task Force 1: Integrated biological biorefinery (led out of UBC)
Leader: Dr. Jack Saddler, UBC
The largest volumes of biofuels produced in the world today are typically produced via biological routes involving microbes and enzymes, and much of this is activity now being supplemented by “advanced” (second generation) plants that are coming on stream in Europe (Italy, Denmark), the US and Brazil and further plants anticipated in in Asia and other parts of the world. Biochemical-based routes tend to be multi-step processes involving biomass feedstock selection, pretreatment, fractionation, enzymatic hydrolysis of the cellulosic component, fermentation of the cellulose and hemicellulose sugars to a range of fuels and chemicals (ethanol, butanol, butanediol, farnasane, etc.), the production of high value co-products from lignin, and production of extractives such as vanillin, thujaplicins, etc. The high-value co-products increase biorefinery profitability while possible power production derived from burning lignin (as is used in the Inbicon, Abengoa, Poet, and Chemtex plants) helps to lower energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BioFuelNet’s Integrated Biological Biorefinery platform will address challenges and seek opportunities along this value chain, and work to mobilize Canadian advantages such as the predominance of woody feedstocks, wheat/Canola residue-based feedstocks, and pulp and paper-based biorefineries.
Task Force 2: Integrated thermal biorefinery (led out of Université de Sherbrooke)
Leader: Dr. Jean-Michel Lavoie, Université de Sherbrooke
Building on the progress of Phase I’s Central and East platforms, the Integrated Thermal Biorefinery platform involves experts focused on the value chain associated with thermochemical conversion of biomass involving the production of syngas (through gasification) or biooil (through pyrolysis). This platform aims to optimize the integration of each element of the value chain including low value feedstocks, technological aspects of the processes, downstream processing, transportation, and use of the end products. The targeted output involves raw syngas and biooils utilisation as well as derived synthetic fuels and synthetic chemicals such as short chain alcohols, alkanes and aromatics. Further transformation of carbon-based residues (char and tail gas) including but not restricted to reforming is also a focus of this platform.
Two Task Forces addressing discrete barriers
Task Force 3: Low-cost sustainable feedstocks
Leader: Dr. Kevin Vessey, St. Mary’s University
BioFuelNet’s industry partners have indicated that sourcing and maintaining low-cost, reliable, and sustainable feedstock supplies are major risk factors to initiating or maintaining advanced biofuel production facilities. Addressing these issues is complex, given the variety of feedstocks that exist (e.g., municipal solid waste, forestry and forestry by-products, purpose-grown feedstock crops, and agricultural and forestry residues), the logistical, supply-chain, economic and policy issues involved, and the range of conversion technologies that are used to convert these feedstocks into advanced biofuels. BioFuelNet has created a Low-Cost, Sustainable Feedstock (LCSF) Task Force involving members from academia, industry and government to address these questions with a goal of de-risking the issues around sourcing and maintaining low-cost, reliable, and sustainable feedstock supplies for biorefinery operators.
Participants: Waste management companies, agriculture and forestry companies, government departments such as AAFC, CFS and NRC and possibly municipalities.
Task Force 4: Policy
Leader: Dr. Warren Mabee, Queen’s University
Policy is one of the most important tools in developing a successful and thriving biofuel sector. Canada’s federal and provincial governments have embraced policy tools including production incentives and mandated renewable fuel contents, and this has played a significant role in creating biodiesel and ethanol production capacity across the country. As advanced biofuel technologies reach maturity, it is important to examine a range of policy tools – including additional mandates, production or consumer incentives, or carbon pricing – and to assess their potential to support the expansion and growth of Canada’s biofuel sector. This Task Force will be responsible for identifying policy approaches that might be of interest to Canadian governments, and for interfacing with government groups through public hearings, policy briefs, etc. in order to advise on the most effective and cost-efficient approaches to creating a positive policy environment for advanced Canadian biofuels.
Participants: Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, investment community, stakeholders from government.
Two Task Forces addressing strategic sectors
Task Force 5: Forestry
Leader: Evelyne Thiffault, Université Laval
Canadian forests represent an abundant source of renewable biomass with minimal carbon footprint, provided the growth of trees remains at least equal to the quantity harvested. By implementing advanced extraction and conversion technologies for production of biofuels and other value-added products, the forestry sector can diversify its portfolio of products, penetrate new markets and generate new revenues. Integrating these new technologies within existing facilities could be very advantageous since high quality infrastructure is available, access to feedstock is built in, links to markets and to downstream processors is simplified, and a network of suppliers and sub-contractors is already established. Taken together, this concept is known as the integrated forest biorefinery. To nurture the development of a renewed and profitable Canadian forest industry, BioFuelNet Canada has created a Forestry Task Force. The Task Force will involve members form academia, government and industry who will work together to propose solutions for sustainable feedstock supply and, implementation of technically feasible, economically viable and environmentally sound transformative technologies.
Participants: Canadian Forest Service, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, FP Innovations, Cascades, Kruger, Boralex and others.
Task Force 6: Aviation
Leader: Dr. Murray Thomson, University of Toronto
Aviation represents one of the most challenging fronts for biofuel development. Historically, biofuel applications have involved direct combustion of biomass in industrial settings, digestion, gas capture, fermentation/distillation of sugars and starches, and upgrading plant and animal oils for diesel applications, none of which typically produce biojet fuel. The deployment of biojet has been delayed by the complexity and cost of producing the biojet, the relatively low rival cost of conventional jet fuel, the rigorous specification standards of the final jet fuel product, and a myriad of other challenges ranging from feedstock costs to policy considerations. BioFuelNet Canada (BFN) has created an Aviation Task Force involving members from academia, industry and government to address these issues and identify a common path forward.
Participants: Transport Canada, Environment Canada, National Research Council, Air Canada, Airbus, International Air Transport Assoc., CAAFI, ASCENT (FAA Centre of Excellence)