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Standards Help Fuel Canada’s Transition to the Bioeconomy

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March 16, 2024 in Features
By Canadian Standards Association

hands holding soil with a plant sprouting(Photo: iStock)

The Critical Role of CSA Group’s Standards in Canada’s Low-Carbon Future

Canada’s journey towards a sustainable, low-carbon future is intrinsically linked to its bioeconomy potential. By leveraging rich natural resources, our country is poised to lead globally in this domain. Central to the transition to the bioeconomy are CSA Group’s standards, which play a pivotal role in shaping the future of bioenergy and biofuels, sustainable biomass supply chains, safety and performance of biomass conversion technologies, as well as use and end-of-life management of bio-based materials and products.


Why standards are critical for advancing the bioeconomy

Standards are agreed-upon ways of doing things to achieve a common purpose. They are developed by a balanced committee of experts who work collaboratively to achieve a consensus on the requirements and guidance of any given standard. That way, standards can help products, systems, or services operate safely, consistently, efficiently, and as intended. By enhancing reliability across the bioeconomy landscape, standards can help establish confidence across the value chain in emerging biotechnologies and bio-based materials and products.

Standards can provide common definitions of terms, processes, and their related outcomes. This can bring greater clarity for all bioeconomy participants and help ensure that outcomes are measured and reported in a consistent, transparent, and verifiable way. Standards can also provide guidance and best practices, creating efficiencies and promoting innovation. Through collaboration with other standards organizations on both regional and international levels, standards can also help harmonize requirements across borders, removing barriers to trade.


Standards help promote solid biofuels as a reliable low-carbon alternative

Bioenergy, derived from organic materials abundant in Canada, offers a viable alternative to fossil fuels. CSA Group’s standards for solid biofuels promote efficient, safe, and sustainable bioenergy production.

CSA Group manages the Canadian Mirror Committee to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee for Solid Biofuels (ISO/TC 238). Through this activity, CSA Group champions Canada’s position in the development of international standards for solid biofuel specifications and classes and chemical, physical, and mechanical testing methodologies. By adopting these international standards as national standards of Canada, CSA Group actively supports the application of international best practices in Canada.

While the standards landscape for solid biofuels is relatively mature, it continues to evolve as more people use these resources around the world. For example, to address challenges related to wood chip storage, CSA Group has published a guidance document, CSA SPE-2254:19, Guide to wood chip fuel: Characteristics, supply, storage, and procurement. By providing unambiguous fuel specifications, this Guide helps promote wood chip fuel as a consistent and renewable, low-carbon fuel source in Canada. CSA SPE-2254:19 helps link the players in the wood chip fuel supply chain and serves as a knowledge tool that offers recommendations and best practices to support the efficient trade of wood chip fuel.

The solid biofuels market is intertwined with the market of appliances using this type of fuel. These appliances have to meet specifications and requirements for safe installation, energy efficiency, and emissions. CSA Group addressed these areas by developing a comprehensive set of standards, including CSA B365-17 (R2022), Installation code for solid fuel burning appliances and equipment, CSA B366.1-11 (R2020), Solid fuel-fired central heating appliances, and CSA B415.1:22, Performance testing of solid fuel burning heating appliances.


Supporting the safe and efficient production of biogas as a substitute for fossil fuels

The demand for gaseous biofuels, including biogas, renewable natural gas, and syngas as a source to generate electricity and heat is growing. Typically produced from animal manure, agricultural residues, municipal waste, and landfill gas, these biofuels not only provide renewable, clean energy and reduce Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels but also help reduce waste. The binational CSA/ANSI B149.6:21, Code for digester gas, landfill gas, and biogas generation and utilization, is a critical tool in supporting the safe and efficient design of systems for the production of biogas.

CSA Group is also involved in international standards activities in the area of gaseous biofuels, managing the Canadian Mirror Committee to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee on Biogas (ISO/TC 255). Through this activity, CSA Group brings Canada’s input to the development of standards for biogas produced by anaerobic digestion, gasification from biomass, and power to gas from biomass sources.


Addressing biomass supply chain risks and boosting bio-based product development

With the abundance of sustainable biomass resources and advanced agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, Canada has an opportunity to become a leader in the bioeconomy and the global markets for bio-based materials and products. CSA Group standards and research support the quality, safety, performance, and market competitiveness of bio-based materials and products, as well as the profitability of bioindustries while ensuring adequate and sustainable feedstock supply.

The standard CSA W209:21, Biomass supply chain risk, supports the development of a viable, sustainable domestic biomass industry by providing a standardized methodology to quantify bio-feedstock risks more accurately. By effectively addressing biomass feedstock risk, the standard helps reduce uncertainty when investing in bioeconomy projects and provides capital markets with assurances needed to drive investment at the scale required to support Canada’s bioeconomy policies.

Moving from non-renewable resources to a bioeconomy is not straightforward, and many barriers still exist. For example, producers, end-users, and other value chain participants need to better understand the properties of biomaterials, such as cellulose and lignin. CSA Group worked closely with laboratories across the country and other parties to help standardize testing methods for lignin properties that provide consistent results. This led to the development of a set of standards for the characterization of cellulose and lignin properties. The standards allow manufacturers to select lignin with the right properties for their products, thus supporting the efficient development and commercialization of new bioproducts.


The path to a sustainable bioeconomy

Sustainability is the bedrock of a thriving bioeconomy. CSA Group’s research Bioeconomy Landscape: Insights for Standardization [link] explored processes, trends, and potential pathways toward a sustainable bioeconomy and identified the need for system-level standards, assessment of microplastic contamination of biosolids, and bio-based content labelling and certification.

CSA Group’s standards and research encompass a broad range of considerations, from environmental impact and resource management to economic viability and social implications. They help provide a blueprint for Canada to balance growth and sustainability and meet its low-carbon economy targets.

Visit CSA Group’s website to learn more about standards, research, and collaborations supporting the advancement of the bioeconomy in Canada.


¹ Canada 2022 Energy Policy Review, International Energy Agency

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