Prospects of Forest Biomass Energy in Canada

Bioenergy Production

Canada is a big northern country with a moderately small population of around 36.2 million individuals. The population is expected to increase by about 1.4% in the year 2017. It is a developed economy and a large base for natural resources. These resources have molded Canada’s energy generation and utilization patterns. Canada’s energy resources are among the biggest on the planet. Canadian rivers contribute about 7% of the world’s renewable water supply and give great hydroelectric production capacity. Furthermore, Canada positions third globally in established oil well reserves, 97% of these wells are in the oil-sands. The nation is ranked 15th for having gas and coal holds. Canada is also positioned fourth in recognized resources of uranium (Bohnert et al., 2014).

Bioenergy production denotes Canada’s 2nd largest source of sustainable energy after hydro (McDaniels, 1982). It contributes up to 4% of the total energy produced in Canada. Organic wastes generate abundant bioenergy. The power created, however, requires a facility for conversion. The pulp and paper industry makes and consumes the greatest portion of Canadian bioenergy. Residential heating using wood commonly uses stand-alone stoves or wood furnaces. Approximately 3 million households in Canada heat water using trees. They show a high preference for round wood. However, homes usually alternate these sources with chippings and pellets (Vaillancourt et al., 2014).

Biomass is the chief and oldest fuel ever used by humankind from as early as the dawn of civilization through the industrial revolution. People used it for such purposes as cooking, production of electricity, powering locomotive engines and keeping warm at private residential areas. In the recent past, about a century ago, its use has been replaced by other energy sources which have high energy density, are handled with ease and are economically cheaper like coal and oil. Biomass is an unfathomable sustainable resource which comprises crop and animal wastes, forest residues, sawdust, industrial waste, the organic and constituent from municipal wastes.

The opportunity for converting biomass to energy and other valuable products are many and can meet the energy needs within the forests, the backwoods, agricultural farmland, transport sector and even domestic use. Coordinated efforts amongst governments and industry are attempting to create biofuels, biogas, and biomass resources.
Recently, the Growing outcry about environmental degradation resulting from the imprudent use of fossil fuels for electricity generation has concentrated attention on developing and improving skills to utilize biomass as an alternative fuel for efficient and sustainable energy creation.

Bioenergy is a highly adaptable source which has invited much attention because of its possible role in climate change mitigation and contribution to global energy security as well as rural development. It is important to note that traditional biomass is regularly inefficient. It is detrimental to the natural environment and linked with low quality of life. However, various recent bioenergy technologies have developed that can meet rural population’s energy needs and at the same time achieve environmental sustainability (Nissim et al.,2013).

This review paper will discuss the prospects of forest biomass energy in Canada with a particular attention given to both economic and environmental challenges and opportunities that the nation face from the utilization of its forest as a source of biomass energy. The discussion is based on the review of the literature; comprising mainly of forest and sustainable energy in Canada.

Materials and Methods

Study area

In this paper, forest area is a big geographic zone having a broad uniformity both in physical geography and in the structure of the prevailing tree species. This review, therefore, divided Canada into eight forested regions and excluded Tundra and grasslands as forest areas since they did not meet the requirements to be real forestlands (Miller et al., 2015).

Review of forest composition

Canadian forest contains many tree species. They are better and easier to group them according to genus. Moving from Ontario; one of the areas with the densest population areas in Canada northward, you go through maple-dominated forest, then to birches making up the boreal zone. The coastal regions particularly the west coast is dominated by hemlocks, cedar and Douglas-firs. Those forests on the east coast are majorly composed of diverse tree species. Pine and poplar are almost all over the country. However, pines show slight preference to areas where forest fires have occurred (Guindon et al., 2011).

Review of Sources of Biomass Energy in Canada

Canada has a well-established natural bio-resources. It has roughly 10% of the total global forests. According to BIOCAP Canada, Canadian timber resource stands are equivalent to approximately 69 times more than the nation’s annual fossil energy consumption. Annually, the renewable resource from forest activities, agriculture, and industrial residues are approximately 18%– 27% of the fossil energy demand in Canada. Out of the Canadian 998 million hectares of land, land area, 42% is under forested cover, 25% of which can produce timber. 6.8 % of the total cover is agricultural land, with 3.6% being cropland

Review of Bioenergy Stocks

The 245 million (ha) of forests have a biomass carbon supply of around 15 835 million tC (Tons of Carbon) with the energy content amounting to 566 EJ; equivalent to 69 times Canada’s yearly energy supply met by fossil fuel in Canada.

Review of annual harvest potential

The annual biomass yield from Canadian forestry and agriculture is approximately 143 million tC, a level equivalent to the yearly atmospheric release of carbon resulting from continued use of fossil energy in Canada. The annual biomass energy content harvested in Canada is about 5.1 EJ, translating to 62% of the energy released from the burning of fossil fuel. A 25% upsurge in forestry and agrarian production has the potential to provide biomass energy of up to 1.25 EJ annually. This an amount translates to 15% of the energy that is currently derived from fossil fuel in Canada (Ingrao et al., 2016).

Review of Residue Biomass

There are enormous biomass carbon stock residues that are concomitant with existing agricultural practices, forestry, and municipality. From the total 66 million tC available as residue or waste carbon stock, about 60m (million) tons is rendered “accessible” feedstock for an economy that is bio-based; accounting for about 42% of the harvest from the entire forest and agriculture. The energy quantity of the residual biomass resource which is conventionally estimated to be in the range of 1.5–2.2 EJ per year corresponds to 18–27% of the total fossil energy used in Canada in the year 2000 (Ingrao et al., 2016)7.


Wood Products and Mill Residues

Canadian sawmills are liable for the prevalent forest mill residual production. In 2004 for example, lumber production stood at 35,510 (million board feet) MMfbm in Canada. Over 71% of the production happened in
British Columbia accounted for about (47%) while Quebec was responsible for (24%) of the production. Alberta together with Ontario was liable for about 20%.

Biomass from BC Mountain Pine Beetle Infested Forest

The Canadian forest industry is facing a severe infestation threat from mountain pine beetles (MPB). Going by the recent estimates, the infested area 4.2 million (ha) in 2003 which resulted in about 500 million cubic meters of infested wood biomass in 2006. Another estimate predicted a further 90 million cubic meters wood biomass infestation in the year 2007 alone. The number is expected to reach 1 billion cubic meters in the year 2016. Approximately 50% of these affected wood biomass is predicted to remain non-recoverable.

A project financed by BIOCAP assessed the viability of generating energy from excess (MPB) destroyed trees in Canada. The study evaluated four different case scenarios for putting up a biomass power generating plan and established that it was feasible to build a power generating plant to generate between 200 to 400 MW from the MBP infested pine. This energy capacity can put Canada in the forefront since biomass power technology will undergo vigorous inspection around the globe since it stands out to be viable, meaning through which nations can meet their Kyoto, IPCC and now the Paris agreement targets.

Besides the direct advantage of utilizing BPM infested pine for power generation, Canadian companies can be well placed to invent schemes in other localities around the world. These projects would make them a global leader in wood biomass energy considering its vast Forestry Resource (Niquidet, K., Stennes, B., & Van Kooten, G. C. 2012).

Wood Pellets

Production and trade in wood pellets both in local and international markets in Canada has been on the rise exponentially in the earlier numerous years, predominantly on the Canadian west coast. On the lower end, there are about 11 pellet firms in Canada. These factories have the capacity to produce up to 600,000 tons. However, current capacity growths will allow manufacture to hit 755,000 tons in a very short time (Suteu et al., 2016).
Princeton for example recently advanced to 75,000 tons while Armstrong upgraded to 50,000 tons. These firms are being constructed to seize advantage of both the excess mill residue state in Canada and the high impending wood stock from BPM pretentious stands.

Different provinces in Canada would sell to different export markets citing their proximity to various trade facilities. British Columbia (BC) for example having ocean ports near has its market mainly in Europe. Equally, McTara has been selling mostly into Europe. Firms from Alberta and Quebec also sell enormously to the United States’ market. Canada intends to construct several new pellet mills and expand current ones in the next few years. The production capacity in BC alone has the potential to reach 1,000,000 tons in the next two years and probably further to 1,500,000 tons in the next 3-4 years. However, multilateral agreements must be resolved and put in place while the expansion continues.

Export to Europe in 2006 from BC alone BC exceeded 450,000 tons. Canadian national production capacity was 1,100,000 in 2006 and there are a lot more opportunities to expand this volume further with the technological advancements. Up to now Canada has manufactured merely the white pellets. If brown pellets are accepted both in the local and international markets, there will be potential sedated in the background as a standby
(Suteu et al., 2016)9

The speed of pellet industry growth in Canada is reliable on several important factors like: licenses to use pine wood infested wood at an economical amount, reduced cost for transporting pellets to the coastal ports, continued low shipment cost, and new port equipment for loading. For BPM infested pine forests to be a fiber source, the Canadian governments must license the use of this resource at an acceptable and affordable charge. A subordinated cost structure for transporting pellets to port is desirable to meet competition in international markets.
An effort to consolidate railing for every mill is in the last stage of discussion. Shipment rates intensified up to 80 percent by the end of 2008, a painful experience for different specific exporters. However, the government must uphold a subsidized cost structure for ocean freight. Infrastructural variations in the water transport industry coupled with the Chinese industrial policy on local raw material sources will expectantly have the ocean tariffs lower. Some dealers are tied to rates from as old as 2003 and have been rather immune to the value roller coaster. More economical vessel loading equipment should be in place to deal with the rapid increment in capacity.
For example, the federal government constructed a new devoted pellet stacking facility at Port of Vancouver. It has been in operation since October 2005 and can handle 1,000,000 tons annually and is expected to expand to about twice its current capacity in the next few years. Recently, biggest forest firms are considering the construction of cogeneration and pellet mills both combined. The pellets produced are targeted at the export market (Suteu et al., 2016). Canada had established 70 bioenergy power factories with an overall installed volume of 2,043 MW by 2014. Most of these factories are built to make use of the forest biomass. During the same year, 8.7 GW hours of power were produced using wood refuse and other organic wastes.


In 2004, Canada manufactured ethanol amounting to 17 million liters from wood from Tembec which is one of the main firms dealing in forest products in Canada. As an effort to increase ethanol production, the federal government announced its monetary support in building seven new ethanol companies which can produce more than 720 million liters annually. The expansion will bring production capacity to 1 billion liters. These companies are anticipated to be in operation within the next three years (Nissim et al.,2013).

Policies by the federal government supporting ethanol production are predicted to increase firms’ capacity. These legislations will see the annual ethanol production surpass 1 billion liters. Lignol Innovations, for instance, predicts commercial manufacture of wood-based ethanol in the next few years using its current processes. This firm anticipates having the least production cost for ethanol. If it is fruitful, Lignol will be able to utilize the extensive reserves of mill residue the infested pine trees as a fiber to produce significant quantities of ethanol (Nissim et al., 2013).

BioOil Production

BioOil produced from pyrolysis of wood is a brown, less viscous liquid with a high content of oxygenated compounds. It has a high density of about 1.2 kg/liter. As fuel prices record high levels and environmental worries take center of focus, BioOil grants a strong possibility as an alternative better form of fuel. Companies trading in forest products antedates that BioOil will potentially substitute petroleum and gas energy in boilers and kilns as fuel for cogeneration industries (Nissim et al., 2013).

In Canada, Dynamotive projected its BioOil production as 400,000 tons in 2008, citing wood fiber as the primary raw material. Ensyn, who is the second largest BioOil producer in Canada has a goal to improve industrial applications aimed at its key technology, Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP), to incorporate two separate applications; that is wood-biomass processing together with petroleum upgrading. From wood biomass operations Ensyn’s process manufactures high yields of about 75 percent by weight of BioOil.

By 1996, there were only 4 RTP Companies operating on a large scale. In 2001, Canada constructed an RTP biomass purifying firm and customised it to manufacture in a surplus of 1.8 million kg of natural resin and its products annually, using the current commercial BioOil production. In 2002, Ensyn built and commissioned then the biggest new RTP Company having a capacity of processing about 100 green tons daily. A 6th RTP biomass firm, intended to produce specific chemical products, was built and started operations in 2003 (Nissim et al., 2013).
Ensyn’s largest ever RTP biomass factory is currently in Renfrew, Ontario. It was completed in 2005 with a capacity to convert 160 green tons of wood daily into a natural resin and its associated products. Together with the strategic associates like the United States and Europe, Canada is establishing other plans. In a 3rd BioOil growth, the Canadian government is scheduled to implement a small business prototype to advance economic fortunes in Northern Ontario.

Terminations of pulp & paper and lumber mills had hit this province with severe impacts. The intention is to create and experiment mobile 50 tons per day BioOil components to transform wood waste to BioOil, and put into operation several service hubs and centers for export to help BioOil distribution. There is adequate harvest slash, presently scorched at the roadside, to produce a considerable amount of BioOil, for export. The 50-tons per day plant is currently under construction (Nissim et al., 2013).

Bioenergy and Climate Change

Bioenergy is a practical alternative means of lowering GHG emissions and battling smog. Canadians must face the climate change reality and go head-on in battling it. One of the best ways to do this is to tackle the high amounts of Green House Gasses (GHG) that automotive transport systems using petroleum based fuel emit. Ethanol stands out as the single most practical, readily available means to curb this impact. It cuts tailpipe carbon (II) oxide emissions by 30%, and 34 percent other toxic emissions 34%. Ethanol alone can eliminate fine particle emissions 50%. In general, bioenergy can reduce GHGs by up to 65 %. Adoption of biomass energy will minimize the dangers fossil fuel exposes the environment. This clean power source does not possess any potential threat to surface water and ground water and even other environmental goods and services (Fales et al., 2007).


The Canadian bioenergy business has experienced financial, societal and infrastructural obstacles to production and export (Nissim et al., 2013). The current high thermal and electrical energy prices in Canada will probably encourage the manufacture and consumption of biomass energy domestically. .The 2-year reimbursement requirements for energy investments by the forestry companies coupled with intense offshore business competition and unpredictable future availability for pulp mills as well as sawmills diminish willingness to devote capital on non-core trade, like energy. Most forestry companies have stayed in business with the 2-year payback requirement for more than 20 years. The absence of local markets for bioenergy like (pellets, BioOil and Ethanol) policy (Vaillancourt et al., 2014).

There is a local market for both pellets and ethanol, but they are inadequate. Augmented pellet capacity needs export markets, similar to BioOil. The domestic market for ethanol is expected to counter manufacture increases. Secondary trade hurdles for import experienced in some European countries like the United Kingdom is encouraging national sources of biomass and limits subsidies for imports surpassing certain nationally set limits, subsequently leading to almost no export of pellets to the United Kingdom. Besides, no reception amenities exist for big vessel sizes, a condition for Canadian manufacturers. UK utilities repeatedly send order requests for several million tons of pellets. Unfortunately, nobody is able and willing to capitalize in getting amenities because of the government subsidies policy (Vaillancourt et al., 2014).