Canadian Biomass Magazine

Fuelling the future – Canada’s agricultural energy opportunity

April 10, 2024
By Meaghan Seagrave

Meaghan Seagrave

In a world where the intersection of food and energy security has become a global imperative, Biofuels Week has set the stage to underscore the urgent need for Canada to invest in and foster the burgeoning energy opportunities concealed within its agricultural sector.

Canada’s agriculture sector not only fuels its economy but possesses the untapped potential to drive a transformative shift in our nation’s energy landscape. As the world’s fifth-largest agricultural exporter, Canada is uniquely poised to lead the charge in harnessing energy from agricultural feedstocks and residues. 

Embracing biofuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and biogas, can not only bolster Canada’s efforts to combat climate change but also fortify our nation’s energy security.

These biofuels, long familiar in the realm of innovation, are now thrust into the limelight as agricultural producers strive to maximize value from their byproducts, curtail on-farm climate impacts, and enhance overall farm revenues. The unforeseen trajectory of the past decade has unveiled the potential of agriculture to address not just global food crises but also the looming energy crisis.


Reflecting on the Barton Report of 2017 – a series of recommendations from the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth – we discerned the agricultural sector’s potential for significant growth and economic contribution. What remained undisclosed at the time was the pivotal role agriculture would play in shaping Canada’s clean/green energy future. It has become increasingly evident that the agricultural sector can significantly contribute to Canada’s climate goals for 2030 and beyond, while simultaneously bolstering its energy security through biofuel production.

The tangible proof of this alignment emerges in the nearly 300 existing biogas and renewable natural gas (RNG) projects across Canada, with a mere 16 per cent stemming from agricultural systems, tapping into just 1.3 per cent of available agriculture biogas and RNG feedstocks, according to the Canadian Biogas Association’s March 22 report, Hitting Canada’s Climate Targets with Biogas & RNG. Biogas-to-electricity applications are already mitigating the environmental impact of conventional power sources, but a promising new trend is emerging – biogas to RNG, and subsequently, conversion to compressed natural gas (CNG). This CNG is rapidly gaining favour as a transition fuel for long-haul commercial transportation. Its flexibility in conversion, combined with its ability to leverage rural resource supply, particularly from agriculture feedstocks, addresses the energy demands of commercial and industrial players in areas lacking pipeline access – most of our country. And this is merely a glimpse of the numerous bioenergy and biofuel opportunities nestled within Canada’s agricultural sector.

The renewable fuel standards, carbon pricing strategies and more recent updates to the investment tax credits (ITCs), aimed at achieving Canada’s climate targets for 2030, have not only catalyzed the biofuel sector but also illuminated the concurrent potential for expanding our agricultural industry while satisfying the nation’s clean energy requirements. With abundant water and arable land, high crop productivity, and thriving agri-food research clusters, Canada stands poised to meet the escalating global demand for biofuels by leveraging its abundant renewable resource sectors.

A comprehensive understanding of the cross-sectoral opportunities Canada can seize, serves as the key to further unlock a future where agriculture, along with our other resource sectors, play pivotal roles in not only securing our nation’s energy future, but also addressing pressing food and environmental security concerns. Like the corner pieces to a puzzle, we need to focus on aligning the value chains associated with our resource endowments and build road maps to support industry specific decarbonization. This will only occur through targeted and intentional research, development and innovation in our foundational sectors. 

Our significant and diverse resource endowments are what set us apart from other nations globally and will be imperative to increasing the competitiveness of many of our industries as the world is compelled to decarbonize its processes. 

Let’s take agriculture and our other resource sectors seriously and give them the attention and support required. After all, they are the future of our economic prosperity in Canada.

Meaghan Seagrave is the executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada.

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