What is Bioenergy
Bioenergy is any renewable energy or fuel derived from biological sources. There are several potential feedstocks for bioenergy in Alberta including agricultural products (such as corn or canola), forestry waste and livestock waste.
Bioenergy represents an important addition to Alberta’s energy portfolio. Through the Nine-Point Bio-Energy Plan , the government encouraged investment in Alberta’s bioenergy market to create a long-term, sustainable industry.
Fuel ethanol is a form of alcohol, fermented and distilled from a wide range of plant life such as wheat, corn or canola. Through a process called hydrolysis of grain starch, starches found in plants are converted to sugars that are fermented to produce ethanol. This ethanol is then distilled and dried to produce anhydrous ethanol. New technologies, often referred to as ‘second generation ethanol technologies’ are also emerging that allow raw materials such as forestry waste or municipal solid waste to be turned into ethanol.
Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline for use in motor vehicles. Many ethanol blended gasolines are available throughout Canada, typically varying from five to 10 per cent ethanol blend.
Ethanol blended gasoline improves engine performance while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Gasoline containing 10 per cent ethanol reduces emissions by three to eight per cent.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, recycled cooking greases or animal fats. It can be used either as a blended fuel with petroleum diesel or as a pure fuel. Blended biodiesel can often be used without any engine modification.
Biodiesel reduces the level of several diesel pollutants including sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Biogas may be referred to as “renewable natural gas” or “green methane,” containing approximately 70 per cent methane. Biogas is created through the fermentation of organic feedstock, including manure, food processing waste or various plant life.
Biodigestors heat organic feedstock, causing anaerobic bacteria to multiply and feed on solids within the feedstock. The byproduct of this is biogas. As the gas is produced, it rises to the top of the digester and is collected into a piping system.
Biogas is often used in the generation of electricity to generate heat and steam to drive turbines.
On December 4, 2013, the largest biogas cogeneration project in Canada was opened. The facility started with a generating capacity of 2.8 MW – enough to power 2800 homes. The project was a partnership between the Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) Corporation and Lethbridge Biogas, with funding from Alberta Energy, it was one of four Bioenergy success stories.