Biodiesel seminar weighs potential in Manitoba

By | April 01, 2005
"Biodiesel is the future of biofuels in Manitoba." Those words from Dave Chomiak, minister of the province's Energy Science and Technology, opened the first-ever Manitoba Biodiesel Seminar. The event held Feb. 28 in Winnipeg brought together more than 130 people interested in creating a biodiesel industry in the province.

Chomiak continued by saying 31.5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Manitoba come from the transportation sector. Biodiesel is seen as a possible way to reduce those emissions, along with creating a value-added economy and weaning the province off of imported petroleum.

Feedstock potential was a key topic at the event. Typically the lowest cost feedstock is yellow grease. However, other low quality feedstocks are an option to displace imported feedstocks, Chomiak said.

Mark Stumborg, region director of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, said 140,000 metric tons of possible feedstock is produced annually from the Canadian pulping and paper industry. Stumborg said oil from treated planting seed could be another possible feedstock.
Ron Wardrop, director of sales and marketing for Rothsay Rendering, said animal fats and recycled vegetable oil would be the feedstock for a 35 million-liter-per-year (9 mmgy) biodiesel plant Rothsay recently began constructing in Montreal (see page16).

Unlike the United States, soybeans don't hold a solid feedstock potential in Manitoba. Murray Froebe, director and soybean chair for the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, said the 2004 crop year was devastating to soybean production. Crop acreage was only about one-half of that expected due to cold and wet weather. Froebe also said there is currently only one soybean crusher in the province with a capacity of 200 tons per day.

Canola-based biodiesel provides higher lubricity properties but is higher priced because of demand created by canola's high dietary value, according to Ernie Doerksen, general manager of the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Canada is coming closer to establishing its own biodiesel fuel standard. Stumborg said a Canadian standard of B1 to B5 blends might take effect by this spring. The Canadian General Standards Board would create the standard. Stumborg said that any biodiesel level in diesel fuel at 1 percent or less is considered an additive and wouldn't need to be governed by the standard.

Stumborg stressed the possibility of creating a B5 market in Canada instead of focusing on reaching the unlikely production goal of 500 million liters (132 million gallons) annually by 2008. He said Canada could currently produce enough biodiesel to accommodate a B5 blend in all diesel fuel sold in the country without importing feedstock. "The 5 percent market is our market," Stumborg said.

Bob Lee of Bifrost Enviro-Blends discussed the possibility of creating localized production of biodiesel in key areas within the province. He said it is feasible to produce 8 million to 12 million liters (2 million to 3 million gallons) per year of biodiesel if the feedstock is 30 percent off-grade canola mixed with No. 1 and No. 2 grade canola. Bifrost has already produced 1,600 liters (423 gallons) of biodiesel using off-grade feedstocks in a small batch facility. Lee believes that community-based facilities can be set up for less than CAN$200,000 (US$166,000).

Manitoba is also considering incentives to ease production costs. Paul Nichols, senior analyst for Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency said his group is considering a subsidy program that would offset the CAN$3,000 (US$2,500) cost of testing samples of biodiesel to make sure they are on spec.

A final issue was the acceptance of biodiesel in fleets. Officials from the Manitoba Trucking Industry said they are "reserved" about biodiesel use, mainly because of the fuel's cost and the potential damage it may cause, especially when warranties don't cover its use.
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