Development of forest biorefining in Canada: overcoming the feedstock barrier
Blair, M. Jean
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The development of forest-based biorefineries has the potential to both provide a source of sustainable, low carbon fuel and increase the value drawn from wood residues to help revitalize the forest sector. There has been significant progress toward developing forest biorefining technologies, supported to some extent through government programs, though there are still several barriers to development. Realization of commercial-scale facilities however, will likely be limited by logistical constraints associated with maintaining a consistent supply of woody feedstock and the high capital cost of constructing the facility. To address this issue, mill clusters with sufficient processing capacity were located and evaluated for their suitability to house a forest biorefinery. Existing single-entity mill clusters in Canada were identified according to a set of criteria, and provide the basis for the analysis to determine feedstock supply costs and potential availability. The optimal biorefinery sites within each cluster were identified using a transportation module developed for this study and evaluated according to other factors that would affect the suitability of the site for a large scale forest biorefinery, such as access to markets, other available feedstocks and energy sources. There were four mill clusters identified in eastern Canada that have the potential to support a commercial forest biorefinery. A facility that is centrally located within one of the identified clusters would expect to have a feedstock cost ranging from approximately $95 to $110 per odt. A series of key informant interviews were carried out to further assess the cluster approach to forest biorefinery development. Interviewees generally agreed that the identified locations could potentially support a commercial biorefinery and suggested there are currently significant volumes of underutilized wood in these regions. Forest biorefinery development in the cluster regions, especially where there is mixed forest, should be further pursued.