The Climate Leadership Plan released by the Government of Alberta in November 2015 aims to accelerate the transition from coal to renewable electricity sources, put a price on carbon pollution and set emissions limits for oil sands.
In January 2016, Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) held a meeting at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Delegates from BBRG, Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), FPInnovations,BioFuelNet, BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Sector came together to discuss the ways to introduce biomass as a sustainable and renewable fuel source to decarbonize the power generation in Alberta. Subsequently, a one-day Biomass Cofiring Workshop took place in Edmonton. The overall objective of the workshop was set to address one single question “Why cofiring biomass with coal is a viable option to reduce the carbon intensity of coal-fired power plants in Alberta?” To this end, WPAC teamed up with BBRG and Canadian Biomass Magazine to organize the workshop. Over 125 delegates from power generators, biomass producers, sawmills, public and private forest managers, engineering companies, universities, and government came together on May 4th, 2016, to engage in a discussion on biomass cofiring in Alberta. This workshop was sponsored by BioFuelNet, Canadian Clean Power Coalition, Premium Pellet Ltd., Alberta Innovates-BioSolutions and NSERC.
Experts from various organizations covered different aspects of biomass cofiring opportunity in Alberta. UBC’s BBRG members, Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, Dr. Mahmood Ebadian, Dr. Fahimeh Yazdanpanah and Ryan Jacobson, Ph.D. student presented the results of their research on “logistics of supplying wood pellets to coal-fired power plants in Alberta”. Their research sheds some light on woody biomass availability in Alberta and British Columbia, logistics scenarios to supply woody biomass from forest stands to the gate of the coal power plants, the logistics costs and modification costs of the power plants, and the number of potential employment created across the supply chain.
The message at the end of the workshop was clear: cofiring forest biomass with coal is a technically and commercially viable option to combat the climate change in Alberta. However, more collective and prompt efforts are required among different stakeholders to put biomass cofiring on the government’s agenda as a viable option to phase out coal in Alberta.