Manitoba grants support coal-to-biomass conversions

By Anna Simet | February 26, 2014

In order to help ease financial burdens of complying with Manitoba’s petroleum coke and coal heating ban that went into effect Jan. 1, the province has provided grants to 16 farms working to make the transition.

In addition to the farms, two wood processors have been provided with grants—totaling over $444,000 in all—to help increase availability of wood fuel. For example, a $32,000 grant was provided to Tri J Industries, a sawmill near Riding Mountain, Manitoba, to purchase processing equipment that will support its expansion into woodchip biomass.

The funds are being provided through the Manitoba Biomass Energy Support Program, which was introduced last year. Successful projects received up to half the cost of capital or infrastructure upgrades to a maximum of $50,000.

“The demand for woodchip biomass is growing and this grant will help our company grow along with it,” said John Janzen, a partner in Tri J Industries.  “We have always sold firewood in our business, but now we will also be able to produce woodchips to sell to the local market and diversify our company.”

Key elements of Manitoba’s petroleum coke and coal ban include prohibition of coal and petroleum coke as space-heating fuels, with a grace period up to July 1, 2017, if an approved conversion plan is filed by June 30. Those who have not submitted conversion plans by then, or do not implement plans by June 30, 2017, may face a fine.

According to legislative guidelines, conversion plans must identify the new energy source, provide details on new equipment or modification to existing equipment, set out proposed timelines for conversion and provide details on the amount of coal or petroleum coke used in previous years.

Along with the passage of the coal and petroleum coke heating ban was an emissions tax on coal, which was announced in 2011. According to the Manitoba government, many small coal users have already made the switch to alternatives or have plans to do so, and the ban will reduce emissions by 50,000 to 100,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking between 10,000 and 20,000 cars off the road.