O’ Ethanol

By Anna Austin

In stark contrast to its neighbor to the south, the Canadian ethanol industry didn’t experience the sweet boom years that the U.S. industry did, but it also hasn’t suffered sour effects from a declining economy. In fact, it has likely learned a few lessons from its neighbors to mitigate such effects. Significantly smaller than its U.S. counterpart, the Canadian industry hosts 15 commercial-scale fuel ethanol plants in operation or under construction, ranging from 12.5 million to 225 million liters per year to total nearly 1.8 billion liters (about 476 million gallons). That’s a small fraction of that of the U.S., which has an installed capacity of more than 13 billion gallons. Canadian producers also enjoy fewer incentives and less federal assistance than U.S. producers historically have. Canada’s slow but steady progress, however, seems to be cementing a solid foundation for continued growth.

Canadian ethanol plants are concentrated in Ontario and Saskatchewan, with a scattering in other provinces. Corn is the prevalent feedstock in eastern Canada, most of which is grown domestically with roughly 40 percent imported into eastern Ontario and Quebec, according to a recently completed biofuel economic impact assessment report commissioned by the Canadian Renewable Fuel Association.

Western Canadian plants typically use wheat, of which Canada is a net exporter, ranking sixth in the world among wheat growing countries. In 2008, Canada produced more than 29 million metric tons, and according to the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, the seven commercial plants in that region annually require about 1.4 million metric tons of wheat or about 7 percent of the wheat grown in Western Canada.

Aside from corn and wheat, municipal solid waste (MSW) is being targeted as the feedstock for a planned facility in Edmonton, Alberta. Canadian ethanol pioneer Greenfield Ethanol Inc. has teamed up with native cellulosic ethanol developer Enerkem Inc. to build a facility that will gasify 100,000 metric tons of MSW from the city into 40 million liters (10 MMgy) of ethanol.

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