Producing Canadian Ethanol
The current need for an increase to our national ethanol production has been clearly demonstrated.
The current need for an increase to our national ethanol production has been clearly demonstrated. According to a report from the U.S. Renewable Fuels Association, of the 2.1-2.2 billion litres of ethanol needed in Canada to meet the 5 per cent fuel blend requirements as implemented by the federal government, approximately 893 million litres came from south of the border.
That 893 million litres of imported ethanol must now be the primary target for the growth of the industry in Canada. The producers of ethanol in this country, as well as government officials, should see it as a realistic target for the industry’s growth and work to come up with a strategy to meet it within a reasonable amount of time.
There are, however, a few variables that must seriously be considered in that process. First of all, which is the best to develop in order to offset the nearly 900 million litres needed in this country: further growth of the corn ethanol market or production of cellulosic ethanol from municipal waste? Both corn and municipal waste are proving to be excellent sources of ethanol production in Canada, but both come with significant questions like feedstock sources, initial investment costs, and getting the local community to both understand and accept the facility in their own backyard.
The waste-to-biofuel group may have the edge on feedstock. Waste facilities continue to be an issue in communities across Canada, highlighted by Toronto’s debacle of having its garbage shipped to the United States. Taking that same garbage through a large-scale waste-to-ethanol facility could be a profitable venture for someone able to invest the capital resources necessary to make it work. In the case of corn, not all regions are able to produce the crop, but it has provided new opportunities for farmers who have struggled with crop production or have needed to make the transition to something new (for example, the decline in tobacco production in southern Ontario).
But the fact of the matter remains that, in a country seeing significant growth in the bioeconomy, facilities like Enerkem’s waste-to-energy project in Edmonton and the IGPC facility in Aylmer, Ont., have provided strong examples of how both types of ethanol production can be done to offset the current ethanol trade deficit with the United States.
So what comes next? Clearly, there needs to be interest from potential investors looking for a new way to profit from the green economy. We also need a continued push by the industry to educate government officials in each province of both the national demand and the environmental offsets of the production of corn or cellulosic ethanol.
As Canada’s leaders in the bioeconomy and renewable fuels industries continue to emerge, it will be fascinating to watch how they are able to work with government and industry partners to both shrink our ethanol deficit and look for new ways to use this green technology in both residential and commercial applications.
Andrew Macklin, Associate Editor