Now: Biodiesel industry gets boost with new western expansion; Then: Canola oil tried in diesel engines

the long road to growing renewable fuels


Will Canada develop canola biodiesel? A federal mandate in 2011 required two percent of all fuel sold to contain renewable fuels. What is in store for the biofuel industry and what impact will it have on agriculture? | by SEAN PRATT, SAskatoon newsroom

NOW:

EDMONTON (Staff) —The main obstacle to the widespread use of vegetable oils as a motor fuel is the cost, the Canadian Society of Agricultural Engineers has been told.

A scientific paper presented at the society’s annual meeting here detailed experiments done with canola oil.

Three researchers, R.C. Strayer and R. G. Chopiuk of the University of Saskatchewan, and E.E. Coxworth of the Saskatchewan Research Council, experimented with degummed canola oil in two diesel engines.

The oil was used in a 50-50 mix with diesel oil and alone in a small stationary engine and in a John Deere diesel engine.

Western Canada’s stagnant biodiesel industry finally shifted into gear in 2013 with the commissioning of two large-scale plants in Alberta.

Kyoto Fuels Corp. was the first off the starting line, firing up the plant Sept. 28. It is a 66 million litre multi-feedstock facility.

Then came the big daddy. Archer Daniels Midland opened its 265 million litre canola biodiesel plant later in the year in Lloydminster, Alta.

“It has been a great year for biodiesel in Western Canada,” said Ian Thomson, president of the Western Canada Biodiesel Association.

“We now finally have a really good production base. B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan all have viable production of biodiesel, and that’s great news for an industry that has been years in the making.”

Until this year, the biggest operation on the Prairies was Milligan Biofuels Inc.’s 20 million litre plant in Foam Lake, Sask.

Western Canada had a paltry 42 million litres of production to meet its 330 million litre share of Canada’s 600 million litre mandate.

The federal government’s two percent mandate implemented July 1, 2011, was being met largely through States.

It was not what the Canola Council of Canada envisioned when it threw its considerable weight be-hind the industry.

In 2007, the council established a series of goals to meet by 2015. Many of those goals, such as 15 million tonnes of canola production and 45 percent oil average oil content in the seed, have been met well ahead of schedule.

However, the goal for the biodiesel industry to use 2.5 million tonnes of canola a year appears tough to attain.

The two new Alberta plants would use an estimated 680,000 tonnes of canola if they were running flat out and canola was the only feedstock. However, Kyoto intends to also use animal tallow and alternative crops such as carinata and camelina, so consumption would be smaller than that.

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Rick White, president of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, said the 2.5 million tonne target was based on what appears to be a false assumption.

“Our projections were predicated on having a five percent national mandate here in Canada, which we were hoping would further spur investment and the build-out of biodiesel production.”

Excess production capacity in the U.S. at the same time that Canadian projects were hoping to attract investment didn’t help.

Thomson said the biodiesel industry has had its share of struggles.

“Despite the mandates being in place, the financial markets have been challenging since 2008,” he said.

“It has just taken a number of projects longer than they had anticipated to get the full financing and to actually get the plants operational.”

There has also been disappointment with federal incentive programs.

Kyoto, Milligan and Speedway International Inc. were the only successful prairie-based biodiesel applicants in the ecoEnergy for Biofuels program. A fire shut down the Speedway plant in Winnipeg in 2012.

Kyoto president Kelsey Prenevost said his plant was also delayed by the quality demands of Canadian biodiesel buyers. They wanted a fuel that was superior in quality to the industry standard ASTM fuel, which caused engineering delays in construction.

“It was an extra level of fun,” he said.

Prenevost is proud that the plant is finally up and running and helping meet Canada’s federal and provincial mandates.

“We wish there would have been other players involved, but there’s the two of us and we’re able to satisfy our western portion (of the federal mandate), so I think we’re doing pretty good,” he said.

The company is already contemplating raising another $40 million to build a second plant adjacent to the first one.

J.P. Montalvo, manager of the ADM facility, said the plant will consume oil produced from 600,000 acres of canola.

“It does open up another market for western Canadian canola growers to be able to move their product into,” he said.

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Montalvo said it is a substantive and stable market in the heartland of Canadian canola production and one that is not subject to the whims and costs of international trade.

He said the plant will be global in scale and compete in export markets as well as meeting provincial and federal mandates in Canada.

“The capacity is actually greater than what the Prairies will consume, so we do have an opportunity to be an exporter as well,” said Montalvo.

Thomson said Western Canada’s biodiesel industry is built out as much as it needs to be right now.

“We are talking with provincial governments about how to create a larger market for biodiesel made in Western Canada,” he said.

There doesn’t appear to be much of an appetite for a five percent mandate at the federal level, based on recent comments by federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz.

He recently told reporters the government has invested all it is going to in the biofuel sector and that the industry is as large as it’s going to get.

Ritz expressed his disappointment over the lack of farmer investment in biofuel plants and said there is little desire in Ottawa for increasing mandates.

White hasn’t given up hope. The canola and biodiesel industries are in discussions with the western provinces and Ontario about boosting their provincial mandates.

“That’s how the two percent came to be. It was driven by the provincial governments (implementing) the mandates ahead of the federal government,” he said.

“We’re hoping they will lead the way forward to the five percent as well.”

THEN: Canola oil tried in diesel engines

EDMONTON (Staff) — The main obstacle to the widespread use of vegetable oils as a motor fuel is the cost, the Canadian Society of Agricultural Engineers has been told.

A scientific paper presented at the society’s annual meeting here detailed experiments done with canola oil.

Three researchers, R.C. Strayer and R. G. Chopiuk of the University of Saskatchewan, and E.E. Coxworth of the Sask-atchewan Research Council, experimented with degummed canola oil in two diesel engines.

The oil was used in a 50-50 mix with diesel oil and alone in a small stationary engine and in a John Deere diesel engine.

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