What is the bioeconomy? As Canada develops its strategy for building a sustainable bioeconomy, we need to understand its scope. The bioeconomy is defined as “the knowledge-based production and utilization of biological resources to provide products, processes, and services in all sectors of trade and industry within the framework of a clean and sustainable economic system.”

For the last 70 years, the petrochemical industry drove significant global growth and an expanded chemistry industry. But taking control of greenhouse gases is creating the transformation and development of a hybrid chemistry industry, setting the standards for the rest of the 21st century.

Canada has the resources to create a green and sustainable hybrid chemistry industry. This puts us in a unique position to become a global leader in the world of chemistry. The knowledge is within Canadian universities and industries, and our global partners with whom we share our natural resources including agriculture, forestry, and waste materials.
Progress is visible thanks to the efforts of many people in the community. Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (SCA) have several investments in the field. In Sarnia, ON, a true hybrid cluster is developing in the area of green and sustainable chemistry. Partnerships and synergies have developed from having individuals from industry, colleges, universities, and governments come together to support the cluster.

The pilot facility in Sarnia has been close to capacity doing pilot and demonstration scale development. New businesses, such as Comet Biorefining and Origin Materials, are also being established in the city. Additionally, the Sarnia-Lambton area is becoming a site location for the bio-based chemical industry and green energy industry. Other notable companies in the region include Suncor Ethanol, Enbridge (solar energy), and BIOX.

An abundance of opportunities in Ontario

Sarnia is known for playing to its strengths and is characterized as a leader in the bioeconomy. That’s not a bad reputation to have — in fact, it’s one that proves a region can be recast, moving from tough economic times to a future that is filled with opportunity. As the Eastern Canadian hub for refined petroleum and petrochemical products, Sarnia-Lambton has a promising future thanks to the ongoing work of the local community and some key organizations that have been driving the vision to transform the region into a leading hybrid chemistry centre for the bioeconomy. The area also boasts one of the world’s strongest clusters of education for the chemical industry.

What the Sarnia partners recognize, is the rich opportunity in the area through its foundation of critical infrastructure including pipelines, feedstock, storage caverns, power, gas and steam supplies, transportation, and distribution arteries. It also boasts rail systems, shipping channels, and a deep-sea port. In addition, there is brainpower — the hum of human energy — and a dedication to addressing the needs of the future by developing unique, sustainable, alternative energy supplies, as well as biomaterials and bio-based chemicals.

BIC, whose efforts have helped to bridge the gap between biochemistry and synthetic chemistry, has been a significant change agent. With headquarters at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, its proximity to the bustling area means it is uniquely positioned for collaboration. It is touted as the leading bio industrial catalyst with access to the shared pilot plant facility, and focuses on using sustainable feedstock as an alternative to petrochemicals to help create greener products. There is tremendous expertise in this region and by leveraging ideas, forming strategic partnerships, and working together, there is no doubt Sarnia-Lambton will continue to distinguish itself as a vibrant centre for the bioeconomy.

The shift is a true positive for Sarnia-Lambton and one that just makes sense. The largest benefit is that the community, county, the city, and the petrochemical industry are all highly supportive of this initiative.

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada has been a key catalyst in getting the Sarnia cluster established and will continue to work with Sarnia, the province of Ontario, and Canada, as a whole, to see the bioeconomy continue to grow, create jobs, and become a powerful economic driver.