Assessing Priority Utilization Pathways for Canadian Biorefining Technologies

Project being conducted under BioFuelNet, NCE Network for Canadian Research Integration and Innovation in Biofuels Sustainability

Generously funded by:

Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada


Meet the research team:

Professor Goretty Dias

Professor Warren Mabee: SEES Theme Leader, Queen's University

Professor Heather MacLean: University of Toronto


Recently, there has been considerable attention to the sustainability performance of different bioenergy systems, with various assessment methods being used to rank bioenergy systems on political, social and scientific contexts. Among them Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is often used as a tool for quantification of environmental impacts. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and Energy use are often considered to be the most important impacts .Coupling life cycle thinking with the current trend in increasing the efficiency of bioenergy production system can ensure avoiding problem shifting and sub-optimization. LCA methodology is also developing to include other sustainability performance indicators such as land use and freshwater use to provide a more complete perspective on biorefineries systems.

Taking the life cycle approach and other sustainability approaches to assess priorities in choosing different biomass feedstocks (e.g. residues, dedicated biomass crops), as well as conversion technologies and utilization pathways, can help optimize the net energy and net carbon sequestration outcomes across the Canadian biorefining system while identifying potential sustainability issues and environmental impacts for a precautionary approach to implementing a sustainable bio-fuel system at different stages in the value chain.

Using data from the scientific research being conducted on bio-fuel value chains by the regional research platforms across Canada as case studies will ensure that we are using the most accurate and up-to-date information on the environmental performance of biomass utilization pathways. The outcomes of this study include better management of sustainability issues along the bio-fuel value chain, and strategic assessment and recommendations to government and industry on optimizing bio-fuel systems.

Research activities and outputs:

Research activities will include gathering data for technical/energy/environmental performance of select biomass conversion technologies, development of state-of-the-art LCA models for these technologies, updated LCA databases describing environmental performance for various Canadian sectors, and the development of appropriate Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) approaches for Biorefining systems.