Biofuels and Solid Biomass Data

This database provides Canadian data on biomass-derived energy sources:

  • Liquid Biofuels are largely used in transportation. The two main categories are ethanol (substitute for conventional gasoline) and biodiesel. Both conventional first generation and advanced second generation biofuels are currently being produced commercially.
    • First generation ethanol is derived from sugar and starch-based crops such as corn, wheat, and sugarcane. First generation biodiesel is derived from oil-based crops such as canola and soybeans. These fuels are chemically different from gasoline and diesel, and thus require engine modification and/or additional maintenance for use in standard vehicles.
    • Second generation biofuels are generally at earlier stages of commercial development and can be costlier than first generation biofuels. Cellulosic ethanol can be derived from materials such as crop residues, woody biomass, and municipal waste. Like conventional ethanol, its use requires engine modification. Hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel (HDRD) or hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) is a diesel substitute that can be derived from oil-based crops and wastes. It is nearly chemically identical to fossil-based diesel, and thus is considered a ‘drop-in’ fuel, meaning it can be used without engine modification. Other drop-in second generation biofuels include biomass-to-liquids diesel and renewable gasoline. 
  • Solid Biomass is largely used in industrial applications for heat and electricity production, as well as in buildings for heat production. Various biomass sources could be used, including wood and wood residues, municipal solid waste, and animal waste.
  • Biogas/biomethane can be used for heat and electricity production in industry and buildings, as well as fuel in natural gas vehicles. Prior to use, it is often upgraded to renewable natural gas, which is similar in quality to fossil-derived natural gas. Sources of biogas include agricultural organics, landfill gas, residential and commercial organic waste, and municipal wastewater.

This database focuses largely on liquid biofuels, but also contains some data on wood pellets, a key form of solid biomass. Biogas use in Canada is relatively minor, but amounts to approximately 3% of total natural gas demand. For more information on biogas, see the Canadian Biogas Association website.

Key Data Sources

The Canadian government does not currently report comprehensive data on biofuels. This database was created to serve as a centralized location for data on biofuels and biomass data. The data have been obtained from a variety of sources.

Two recent reports produced in Canada draw biofuels data from various sources. These reports have provided the starting point for much of the information included in our database. Below are links to the reports, as well as an overview and analysis of the data they use.

Internationally, the US Government provides one of the best available sources for data on biofuels in Canada. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) produces an annual biofuels report for many countries, since biofuels are often produced from agriculture-based feedstocks. For Canada, annual biofuel reports are currently available in the GAIN searchable database from 2010 to 2016, and a report from 2006 was also obtained. The data in these reports appear to have been obtained from a wide variety of sources, only some of which are specified. For example, the 2016 report states that data were obtained from ‘Canadian government and industry sources with FAS/Ottawa analysis’, which appears to indicate that personal communication rather than from publicly available data were largely used. There are some inconsistencies in the data reported from year to year in these reports; in tables showing data from these reports, we show the most recently available data.