In the city of La Tuque in north-central Quebec, Bioénergie La Tuque (BELT) is making revolutionary strides to lead the way in the development of the bioenergy sector. With the support of a powerhouse team consisting of FPInnovations, CanmetENERGY, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Ecole Polytechnique, FORAC Research Consortium, the Quebec provincial government, and the federal government, its sights are set on developing a leading-edge biorefinery facility for the production of renewable diesel from forest harvest residues.
Renewable diesel was identified as the fuel of choice to offset rising carbon emissions from transportation, as long-distance vehicles and industrial stationary applications are badly in need of fossil fuel alternatives and have fewer options than passenger cars and light trucks. Biodiesel is currently sourced from waste fats and oils, but the supply of such feedstock is limited and insufficient to meet growing world demand. Renewable diesel made from forest residues is ideally positioned to supplement existing supplies of biodiesel. Forest harvesting residues were selected as the biomass source for fuel production to minimize resource waste and underutilization, avoiding detrimental impact on existing forest sector operations in the region. The project team will continue to assess the feasibility of converting residual harvesting material to produce the projected 200 million litres plus of fuel annually.
BELT’s two-year project aims to determine the viability of biomass-to-fuel conversion technologies and deliver three potential pathways to produce renewable diesel in an accelerated time frame. Knee-deep in the first phase, the team is currently undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of the project. This phase includes confirming the availability of the biomass at a competitive cost, identifying technological bottlenecks in the most promising process lines, and determining an acceptable technical and economical level of risk. With collaborating research teams from FPInnovations staff, CanmetENERGY – Ottawa, CanmetENERGY – Varennes, UQTR, and École Polytechnique, the second phase will focus on detailed evaluations of the contending technologies identified in the first phase. The final project phase will see the construction of a demonstration plant in La Tuque to address the technical risks identified during the earlier assessment.
The BELT project is an excellent demonstration of the innovation currently taking place as industry and government shift their attitudes and focus to a bioeconomy. “Designed to contribute in a meaningful way towards reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in Quebec and across Canada, the BELT project is a game-changer and will surely put La Tuque on the bioeconomy map,” says Douglas Singbeil, Research Manager, Process Engineering of FPInnovations. “By utilizing residues produced from sustainably harvested forests, the initiative is perfectly aligned with FPInnovations’ vision of a world where products from Canadian forests are used to contribute toward all aspects of daily life.”
By replacing non-renewable fuels in transportation with green energy, carbon dioxide emissions are projected to be reduced by 575,000 tonnes annually. The regional economy of La Tuque will also benefit from an expected creation of nearly 500 direct and indirect jobs.
Neste, the world’s largest producer of biodiesel, has already publicly signalled its interest in the technology evaluation and R&D components of the BELT project. This flagship project will bring together the expertise, knowledge, technologies, and competencies and will position FPInnovations to replicate the renewable diesel technologies elsewhere in Canada, maximizing the positive impact on carbon emission.
To learn more about this project, please contact Douglas Singbeil, Research Manager, Process Engineering of FPInnovations.
This article was originally published in the 2016-2017 IMPACT magazine.