Tag Archives: SDTC

Biofuel market zeroing in on green jet fuel; SDTC projects evidence of trend

My Clean Break column today takes a look at some recent efforts to turn the oils from algae and certain non-food crops into jet fuel, which at roughly 8 per cent of the market for petroleum products — compared to gasoline’s take of 43 per cent in Canada and 46 per cent in the U.S. — could be significantly displaced by the greener variety. There’s also the fact that airplanes, unlike cars, trucks and buses, can’t run on electricity. As you’ll know from reading this blog and my column, I am a strong advocate for concentrating biofuel R&D and production efforts on jet fuel displacement.

The column begins with a look at a company in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Ocean Nutrition Canada. Its core business is making Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and its the largest supplier of this product in the world. But recently company scientists stumbled upon an interesting form of algae after screening hundreds of ocean microorganisms. They discovered a heterotrophic algae, in reality a protist, that is 60 times more productive at making oils than other types of algae that rely on sunlight and CO2. Heterotrophs, like humans, grow by eating carbon-based materials. Ocean Nutrition Canada, which has patented the unique organism — called ONC T18 B — was approached by some folks in the biofuel industry and encouraged to lead a project consortium funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada and which includes the National Research Council and Lockheed Martin. They plan to demonstrate they can grow the algae on a large scale using a waste stream feedstock. Project partner Honeywell UOP will convert the algae oil into jet fuel.

Honeywell UOP is also involved with another SDTC project aimed at producing jet fuel, this one based on camelina oil. Targeted Growth Canada of Saskatchewan is heading that consortium, which includes Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney Canada. Early next year, the first test of that fuel will take place in a Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 turboprop, which typically fly out of Toronto’s island airport.

After seven productive years, SDTC grant money soon to run out

Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the not-for-profit government agency founded in 2002 to support Canadian cleantech ventures, began its mission with $550 million in funding. For every dollar SDTC invests, it requires that another $2.40 is invested from elsewhere — mostly from the private sector. The result has been investment of more than $1 billion in 190 or so clean technology demonstration projects, ranging from solar, wind and biofuels to waste reduction, water treatment and soil remediation. In seven years, it has gone through 14 funding arounds. This January will be the last round for climate and clean air projects, and water/soil projects will run out of funding later in 2010 — unless, of course, the federal government decides in its next budget to recharge SDTC’s fund, allowing it to continue along the path of investing $80 million to $90 million a year in cleantech projects, which leverages twice as much from the private sector.

Not recharging SDTC’s fund would be unfortunate, in light of recent momentum around investment in climate innovation. SDTC isn’t perfect. Small companies routinely complain of the complexity of the application process, and how they simply don’t have the time or resources to commit to jumping through hoops when that time could be better devoted to the innovation that funding is intended to support. Still, SDTC has played a vital role in helping emerging ventures get through the “valley of death” — that funding chasm that many startups fall into just when they’re prepared to demonstrate and commercialize their products. For this reason, SDTC and its continued funding path is considered crucial to the health and success of Canada’s cleantech sector.

SDTC dishes out another $54 million toward demonstration of Canadian cleantech

It’s that time again. Sustainable Development Technology Canada has awarded grants to another round of companies eager to demonstrate their respective clean technologies. This time around 18 projects are being funded to the tune of $54 million. To date SDTC has invested $425 million in 171 clean technology projects. Of the 18, here are a few that caught my attention:

* Duropar Technologies Inc. of Brampton, Ontario, has partnered with Canadian Pacific Railway on a project that seeks to replace the use of creosote-covered railway ties with ones that are made of 100 per cent waste-based composite material. By waste, I mean plastic that is difficult to recycle through municipal programs and old asphalt, which is a pain in the butt to dispose of. Now, no secret that the old creosote ties have toxic chemicals in them that leech into the soil and ground-water along train tracks. Here’s a fact I didn’t know: the railway industry goes through more than 20 million ties a year in North America alone. “Each tie leaches up to 15 kilograms of creosote over its lifetime,” according to SDTC. Duropar has no apparent Web site, but I did find this link to one of their patents. Its composite ties don’t leech, so are considered a much “greener” alternative.

* Saltworks Technologies Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., has developed a desalination system “that reduces electrical energy requirements by up to 80 per cent, thereby improving the affordability and accessibility of clean water,” according to SDTC. The key to this is an inexpensive, low-temperature thermal energy conversion system that uses solar energy or industrial waste heat (process heat) to reduce electricity consumption. For the SDTC project, Saltworks will build a commercial-scale 5,000-litre/day “transportable” pilot plant that can be used for ocean water. The process doesn’t rely on chemicals. The company, as you can see by its Web site, is still pretty much in stealth mode. If its process and technology are as efficient as promised, this could be huge for the Middle East, Australia, and shoreline areas of the U.S. southwest that have scarce fresh-water resources. The Middle East alone, certainly an area with terrific solar exposure, wants to build several massive oil-fired generating stations that will be used to power desalination plants. The potential market is massive.

* And then there’s StormFisher Biogas of Toronto, a company I’ve written about several times before. Seems StormFisher is moving ahead with plans to produce biogas in anaerobic digesters that can be injected into Ontario’s natural gas pipeline — specifically, the pipeline owned and operated by Union Gas. It will be a Canadian-first if they can do it, though “Canadian first” means little when we know it’s being done all the time in Europe. Still, nice to see us getting into the game. StormFisher’s system will take methane produced from manure and food processing by-products (i.e grape skins from wine-making, waste from cheese and milk production, etc.) and will convert it into pipeline-grade natural gas. At the same time, StormFisher’s own process by-product — i.e. the digestate — will be turned into a quality organic fertilizer that can be sold back to farmers to displace the use of chemical fertilizers. “The project aims to validate next generation biogas technologies which, although commercially available in Europe, are not in use in North America,” according to SDTC.

SDTC injects $53 million into 16 more cleantech projects

Sustainable Development Technlogy Canada just completed its 13th funding round, this time putting $53 million into 16 cleantech projects and bringing its total funding to $376 million. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, SDTC only invests if private consortia come to the table with two-thirds of project funding. In total, 154 project have been funded with $1.3 billion in public-private funds.

Here are, in my opinion, some of the more interesting projects that got funded in this round: Continue reading SDTC injects $53 million into 16 more cleantech projects