“Canada has a tremendous biomass base. In Alberta we have 22m+ ha of agricultural land and 35+m of forest land. We see groups coming from around the world to access our biomass”. To say it is Stan Blade, Chief Executive Officer at Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions, a research agency funded by the Government of Alberta that works with partners to identify, coordinate and fund research projects. It helps solve industry challenges with solutions that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits. In this interview with Blade we talk about the bioeconomy in Canada, with a special focus on Alberta, which is investing strongly in converting the province’s biomass resources beyond traditional commodities into higher value products. These new products increase economic returns from Alberta’s natural resources. Biomass includes agriculture and forestry fibre, by-products and other feedstocks such as livestock manure and municipal solid waste.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
What is the state of the art of the bioeconomy in Canada?
There is a great deal of activity in various sectors due to the level of natural resources available, and the activity of technology companies. We have seen energy companies investing in algae initiatives here in the Province of Alberta. Enerkem is about to start producing products at its commercial plant supported by Alberta Innovates, using municipal solid waste as feedstock. Kyoto Biofuels has started production at its commercial biodiesel facillity in southern Alberta. Permolex has a wheat-based operation in central Alberta which produces ethanol, flour, gluten and other value-added products.
How strategic is the presence of biomass in your country for the development of the bioeconomy?
Canada has a tremendous biomass base. In Alberta we have 22m+ ha of agricultural land and 35+m of forest land. We see groups coming from around the world to access our biomass. AB Innovates Bio Solutions, my organization, is investing in an “invest-grade” biomass resources information system to enable all users and owners to use excellent data to embark on agreements.
How high are the investments realized by the government in this field?
This is a difficult number to determine. Perhaps the most interesting place to start is to view the investments of the $1 billion Sustainable Development Technology Canada effort (Government of Canada) which has developed a portfolio of investments in this space.
Which are the policies you have in Canada to boost the sector?
There is a Government of Canada renewable fuel standard for ethanol and biodiesel. I have mentioned that commitment of the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada. In Alberta, we have the Nine-Point Bioenergy Plan which supported both infrastructure and provided a producer credit. This plan includes three grant programs (the Bioenergy Producer Credit Program, the Biorefining Commercialization and Market Development Program and the Bioenergy Infrastructure Development Program) to stimulate bioenergy development in Alberta. Bioenergy provides value-added development opportunities for Alberta’s forestry and agriculture sectors and is part of Alberta’s commitment to clean energy production. Our strong livestock, forestry, canola and grain base can provide a consistent feedstock for bioenergy facilities. Alberta also has 20 million tonnes of annual waste in potential feedstock. Emerging technologies have the potential to convert this waste to bioenergy products, including renewable fuels.