With the world population hovering around seven billion people — and climate change being a real and present danger — protecting our environment is now one of our most difficult challenges. It can also be our greatest opportunity.

Here we spotlight three of Canada’s renewable fuels leaders whose companies, products, and break-through technologies are building Canada’s bioeconomy.

Enerkem: Diverting waste from landfills

Enerkem is a clean technology organization that creates a sustainable alternative to land filling and incineration. “We have developed a breakthrough technology capable of producing biofuels, such as ethanol, from municipal solid waste,” explains Marie-Hélène Labrie, Senior Vice-President, Government Affairs and Communications at Enerkem. “So instead of using corn to create biofuel, we use garbage that is destined for landfill.”

The technology, now commercially deployed at Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility in Edmonton, is also capable of producing renewable chemicals. This allows Enerkem to replace the use of petroleum in the production of liquid transportation fuels chemicals that are used in thousands of every day products.

Compared to fossil fuel gasoline, the biofuel created from garbage can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 percent. “The vision from the beginning was to develop a technology that would help meet today’s challenges related to energy and our dependency on petroleum, while also helping solve waste issues,” says Labrie.

GreenField Specialty Alcohols Inc: From biofuel to biorefinery

GreenField Specialty Alcohols Inc. operates four distilleries in eastern Canada that collectively process over 60 million bushels of locally grown corn into ethanol, and industrial alcohols used in medical and pharmaceutical products for hospitals.

"Canada’s renewable fuels industry has delivered more than $5 billion in economic activity and 14,000 jobs to date."

The team at GreenField have also designed and built a complete biomass pretreatment system, called ‘The Bazooka’, capable of processing all kinds of agricultural residues or woody biomass into pure streams of cellulose and hemicellulose sugars. “These second-generation sugars can be considered the new crude oil of biorefinery operations; representing renewable feedstock for the production of advanced biofuels and other bio-based chemicals,” says Malcolm West, the Vice President Corporate Finance and CFO at GreenField.

West feels that it’s important for Canada to embrace biofuels and grow its bioeconomy. “We need to start living with resources that are abundant to us, rather than carving ones out from deep in the earth and creating all manner of greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “Climate change is a big driver for us.”  

IGPC Ethanol Inc: Making a more-than-renewable fuel

IGPC Ethanol Inc. produces 170 million litres of denatured fuel grade ethanol and 170,000 tonnes of distillers’ grains each year.  The facility recently reached over one billion litres of production since opening in 2007.  IGPC is a cooperative, founded by a small group of farmers who believed in renewable fuels and wanted to create bioeconomy jobs in the heart of rural Ontario.

 “From very small beginnings, IGPC has created a vibrant industrial base in Aylmer,” explains Jim Grey, CEO of IGPC Ethanol Inc. “Today we are expanding this base and doing more than converting corn into fuel ethanol.”

IGPC Ethanol Inc. is the first global adopter of a technology that fractionates the corn kernel at the front end of the fuel making process. “That technology allows us to then take a fibrous portion of corn kernel and convert it into not only next generation biofuels, but also next generation vital products,” says Grey. “We have a number of initiatives underway to focus ourselves in that area.”

Canada’s renewable fuels industry has delivered more than $5 billion in economic activity and 14,000 jobs to date. But it’s poised to do so much more.
“Our daily lives are impacting our environment, our health, and our prosperity,” says Andrea Kent, President of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. “Our members have built an industry and are now taking biofuels to the next level — shaping not only Canada’s energy future but also the kind of world we leave behind.”