• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Calgary company hopes unique biofuel technology can help decarbonize Canada’s airline industry

ByKimberly A. Brochu

Sep 15, 2022

A SixRing manufacturing plant that produces green energy fuels, in Calgary on September 14.Todd Korol/Todd Korol/Globe and Mail

Inside a nondescript building in an industrial park on the outskirts of Calgary, a company hopes its unique biofuel technology can help decarbonize Canada’s airline industry.

This is part of a larger push to establish a sustainable aviation fuel production sector in the country as Canada targets emissions reduction targets of 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. And for SixRing Inc. of Calgary, the ultimate goal is to play a key role in this economic opportunity.

The company recently received $1.4 million from the federal government, which it will use to increase production with its technology that converts agricultural waste into renewable fuels.

Unlike other biofuels, which often use food-derived feedstocks such as canola oil, it uses agricultural and forestry by-products including corn straw and husks, wood chips, bark and wood infested with pine beetles.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF as it is known in the airline industry, is non-petroleum-based jet fuel made from renewable materials. The raw materials can be anything from corn sugar to used cooking oils, organic municipal waste or even seaweed.

As a renewable alternative to traditional jet fuel, it is playing an increasingly important role in the airline industry’s decarbonization efforts.

Over the next three decades, the airline industry expects the technology to evolve into hydrogen or electric aircraft, but until then it sees SAF as something of a stopgap measure.

The Canadian Council for Sustainable Aviation Fuels – a consortium of 60 airlines operating in Canada, as well as airports, research institutes and fuel producers – was launched earlier this year to drive Canadian development of SAF .

Geoff Tauvette, executive director of the council, said in an interview that blending SAF into traditional jet fuel can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the sector by up to 80%. And because it’s an alternative fuel, it doesn’t require aircraft modifications or special airport infrastructure.

The group is developing a roadmap to help the airline industry achieve 10% SAF usage by 2030.

The challenge today is that little SAF is made, Tauvette said, usually because it’s harder and more expensive to make than traditional jet fuel.

“Canada has all the right ingredients to do it, but we don’t have the political regime to back it up to make it affordable,” Tauvette said.

“So we are in a chicken and egg situation. The industry wants more, but at the same time it has to be affordable. »

While Canada’s carbon pricing framework and clean fuel standards help support the use of low-carbon fuels, these measures have been primarily focused on ground transportation, he said.

Markus Weissenberger, CTO of SixRing, says there is a massive international push for alternative fuels.Todd Korol/Todd Korol/Globe and Mail

To help get an SAF sector off the ground, he said Canada needed to develop a bespoke low-carbon aviation fuel program – and it needed to act quickly to ensure the country doesn’t lose out. ground to benefit the United States, where the recent Cut Inflation Act included a new SAF subsidy program and new tax credits to encourage production.

“Our biggest concern, I think, is that these incentives attract one of the potential raw materials that we might be able to process here, and therefore make it even more difficult for us to set up an SAF market in Canada,” said Mr. Tauvette.

Keean Nembhard, spokesman for federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, said advanced biofuels should play a key role in Canada’s emissions reduction targets. He highlighted the recent challenge The Sky’s The Limit, which awarded $5 million to Montreal-based Enerkem to develop its own SAF technology, and the federal government’s Clean Fuel Fund to help produce low-carbon fuels. carbon content such as SAF as measures to help support the sector.

Markus Weissenberger, SixRing’s chief technology officer, said there was a massive international push for alternative fuels.

And while the ultimate goal is to get into the SAF game, in the short term he expects the product developed by SixRing, a subsidiary of Calgary-based Fluid Energy Group Ltd., will go to refineries looking reduce their own carbon footprint by feeding greener fuels into their production processes.