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Filler ‘er up in the forest

Imagine pulling up to the pump and filling up with … tree sap?

Well, not quite. But there may be a day soon when bio-diesel derived from wood waste out of our forests is available as the pumps.

It’s a project Canfor has been working on for some time.

“Our goal is to green up the transportation industry and eventually eliminate conventional crude,” said Martin Pudlas, Canfor Pulp’s vice-president of operations. “It’s a different view of the forest.”

There’s nothing new about bio-diesel. What is new is figuring out how to make it out of the residual wood waste that the conventional forest industry creates.

Chemically, Pudlas says, wood waste and crude oil aren’t that far apart.

Last year Canfor Pulp entered into a joint venture with Licella Fibre Fuels of Australia to investigate whether Licella’s technology can economically convert pulp biomass into a renewable biocrude. This agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted where wood residue streams from Canfor Pulp’s kraft process were successfully converted into a stable biocrude oil.

One of the benefits, other than creating fuel with much less of a carbon footprint, is that biocrude doesn’t need special infrastructure. While the proliferation of electric cars is welcome, they do need charging stations.

If the biocrude project proves to be economically successful on a larger scale, the biocrude oil can then be refined in a conventional refinery and easily be upgraded to gasoline, diesel, kerosene and fuel oil blend stocks.

“If we make a crude, we can use all the infrastructure that’s in place,” said Pudlas.

It has the support of the federal government. Ottawa has approved Canfor Pulp for up to $13.2 million dollars of funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), which supports the development and deployment of clean technology in Canada.

The $13-million non-repayable contribution through SDTC will enable Canfor to further develop and demonstrate a technology that will take what is a currently a waste product from its production processes and develop it into a low-cost biofuels product.

This story originally appeared in the April issue of NewNorthBC magazine.

See the full magazine below.

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