Biofuels – A Sustainable Solution through Homegrown Advantage
Someone once told me that Saskatchewan has a “wait and see” approach to business. That people and companies here move at a slower speed than the rest of world. We wait and watch to determine if opportunities will be successful elsewhere before we follow suit. I think that can be true in some areas of business. However, when it comes to advancing in an emerging sector of sustainable biofuels, we haven’t been sitting down and silently considering.
Here’s the opportunity.
Electric vehicles (EV’s) are an inevitable part of our future. However, our electricity grid cannot meet the demand if everyone went and purchased an EV tomorrow and plugged it in overnight. It’s just not feasible. We’re taking steps to solve that problem – increasing our energy mix and building capacity. But it’s not there yet.
EV’s may never be an all-encompassing solution to our transportation and logistics sector. Factors that limit usage and production include supply chain disruptions, critical mineral sourcing and infrastructure availability in terms of charge stations. And probably one of the biggest hurdles is that semi-trailers require an immense amount of battery capacity to carry large loads over long distances, increasing battery demands and weight, and therefore limiting distance. As it stands, heavy vehicles in this industry account for roughly 23% of Canada’s Green House Gas Emissions overall, 40% of which is freight transportation.1 So the problem to be solved? How about diesel that provides less carbon when burned in large and heavy vehicles and machinery.
Done. It’s already a reality. But here’s the issue – not enough is being produced.
Enter Saskatchewan agriculture.
Our farmers produce a ton of commodities. And a ton of canola. (Millions of tons actually!) Which equates to oil. Wait…what? You guessed it, renewable diesel, which can be swapped for traditional fossil fuels with zero adjustment to engine components to successfully eliminate approximately 80% of carbon. We have the first movers in this space already. AGT Foods and FCL (Federated Co-operative’s Limited) announced plans to build an Integrated Agriculture Facility producing 15,000 barrels a day of renewable diesel here in Regina. There’s a Cargill canola crush plant under construction in Regina that will increase the capacity for canola processing at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH). Not to mention innovative companies like Red Leaf Pulp and Prairie Clean Energy who have identified and are moving on the opportunity to utilize unsuspecting commodities like Flax and Wheat Straw to produce biomass products.
Responding and adapting to industry and the rapidly changing energy landscape, the University of Regina has updated its Petroleum Engineering program with a commitment to climate action. They now offer a comprehensive undergraduate program under the U of R’s Energy Systems Engineering program that focuses on energy studies and prepares students for jobs that new and improving technologies will create titled the Bachelor of Applied Science in Energy Systems Engineering, Sustainable Energy Engineering Degree. Regina is also a leader in research in Clean Energy and is home to the Clean Energy Technologies Research Institute (CETRI) which centralizes all low-carbon and carbon-free clean energy research activities at the U of R.
So we are training the people and doing advanced research in Regina. But is it fast enough?
Industry is already asking – nay – demanding that these types of fuels be produced and available for purchase. In June of 2022 WestJet announced its first flight using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). It flew between Los Angeles (LAX) and Calgary (YYC) with SAF. They immediately noted that they were (and still are) “currently constrained by limited production and high costs” and called for “policy incentives and support to enable the transition to the widespread adoption of SAF.”
Regina has an unparalleled eco-system to support production of biofuels and a cluster of businesses aimed to support this product. It’s not only good for our planet – it’s our next generation of leaders in agriculture, local farmers, petroleum engineers and AgriTech entrepreneurs.
We have the business. The people. The knowledge. And the ability. Regina is the first mover in this space. And we are doing anything but waiting and watching.
Want to talk more?
Megan Bradshaw, Sector Growth Manager, Environment & Sustainability