Canadian foundation funds biomass projects

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted March 11, 2009, at 3:52 p.m. CST

Sustainable Development Technology Canada recently announced that 16 new clean energy projects have been awarded a total of $53 million in funding.

SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The $550 million SD Tech Fund supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water and clean soil. The $500 million NextGen Biofuels Fund supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels.

According to the SDTC, the 16 chosen projects offer technological solutions to the challenges Canada is currently facing in strengthening the economy while responding to environmental issues. The innovations can be used in multiple major economic sectors ranging from power generation to agriculture and waste management.

Three of the projects receiving funding involve biomass technologies. One project led by Kingston, Ontario-based Performance Plants Inc. seeks to improve cellulosic conversion. The project will receive up to $5.5 million in funding from SDTC, which will be used to advance the company's trait technologies that improve conversion of cellulose into biofuels and biochemicals. According to information released by SDTC, PPI's advanced trait development methodology makes it easier to release useable sugars from cellulose fibers. This benefits the ethanol production process by lowering the energy requirements for conversion, reducing enzyme requirements, accelerating the processing times.

According to Peter Matthewman, PPI's president, the company has developed a set of technologies referred to as Enhanced Conversion Technology that alters the cell walls of plants to significantly improve their conversion into biofuels. The funding will primarily be used to further develop the Enhanced Conversion Technology to increase the amount of releasable glucose and develop these traits in non-food crops. The funding will also be used to support the acceleration of PPI's Biomass Enhancement and Water Use Efficiency technologies.

The funding will support research and development of Miscanthus, sorghum, hemp and switch grass, said Kevin Gellatly, PPI's vice president of alliances. In addition to increasing crop yields and digestibility, testing at various industrial facilities will be conducted, Gellatly continued. To complete this testing PPI has partnered with British Columbia-based cellulosic ethanol company Lignol Energy Corp. and the Saskatchewan Research Council.

Two other biomass projects also received funding from the SDTC. A project led by British Columbia-based Alterna Energy Inc. will seek to develop a commercial-scale woody biomass to biocarbon production facility. The facility will produce a biocarbon product that can be pelletized and used as an alternative to wood pellets and coal.

Toronto-based Greenfield Ethanol Inc. also received SDTC funding to support a biochemical lignocellulosic ethanol demonstration project that utilizes corn cobs as feedstock.

More information on the other projects that received funding can be found on the SDTC Web site.