On Apr 18th 2019, Western Economic Diversification Canada announced $2.38 million funding towards the research and testing of clean technologies that generate renewable natural gas (RNG) from forest residues, led by Prof. Xiaotao Tony Bi at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The project will be spearheaded by the UBC BioProducts Institute together with the BC Pulp & Paper Bio-Alliance, a formal partnership between UBC, FPInnovations, the British Columbia (BC) provincial government and all the BC pulp and paper companies.

The forestry sector is an important part of Western Canada’s economy and creates jobs, business, and export opportunities, especially in rural and Indigenous communities. By enabling forest residues—the small trees, branches, and other woody “waste” materials that remain after a harvest—to be transformed into mill-ready synthetic gas (syngas) or RNG, these technologies are expected to not only reduce BC’s carbon footprint, but also stimulate further growth in the province’s forestry sector, which exported $13.7 billion in products (34 per cent of all provincial exports) in 2016.

In addition to creating and commercializing cost-effective new clean technologies, which are expected to create up to 240 jobs at provincial mills, the project aims to provide technical guidance in the development of a commercial-scale demonstration plant. The plant will allow the viability of different technologies to be tested and ultimately enable pulp and paper mills to scale-up in their own operations.

The funding was announced by the Honourable Joyce Murray, President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada. She said "British Columbia’s forestry sector is one of our economic strengths and supports middle class jobs across the province. We’re investing to support the sector through clean technology initiatives, Indigenous inclusion and sector sustainability will help ensure that the industry continues to thrive and prosper for generations to come."

Prof. Bi said "We are grateful for this governmental support, which will help UBC build on its significant existing investments in bio-based research and further solidify its position as a leader and innovator across a range of bioeconomy-related fields." "The BC Pulp & Paper Bio-Alliance would like to acknowledge Minister Murray’s announcement of the WD funding award for RNG development at UBC," said Bob Lindstrom, Manager of the BC Pulp & Paper Bio-Alliance. "We are pleased to partner with UBC and FPInnovations to focus on the development challenges of sustainable RNG production from woody biomass at an industrial scale. Success means transforming biomass into syngas or RNG to eliminate fossil fuel use in our production processes in BC."

News source: Thomas Horacek, UBC