Annual Canadian biofuels report highlights provincial data

By Tim Albrecht | July 23, 2018

Advanced Biofuels Canada announced the release of the Biofuels in Canada 2018 report, which updates and expands upon the last annual report by Navius Research released in 2017 and in 2016 in partnership with Clean Energy Canada.

“Data about our industry has become even more important as biofuels’ role in meeting federal Clean Fuel Standard targets becomes evident. Provincial work to update renewable and low carbon fuel policies also continues. These annual reports have become increasingly comprehensive to stay relevant in the very dynamic Canadian fuels and carbon pricing arena,” said Ian Thomson, president ABFC.

According to the report, there is no comprehensive data source in Canada that allocates renewable fuel consumption by province using data from provincial regulators and no single source that communicates the impact of renewable consumption on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel costs.

Collecting data at a provincial was something this report did to provide to provide a more timely and rounded view of biofuels in Canada, Thomson said. “The federal government has virtually no current data on biofuels. The provinces have much more data, to the extent that each province has their own fuel regulations. We end up putting together the national numbers based on what each province does.”

“The provinces have energy sovereignty in Canada, so the federal government has jurisdiction over a number of issues, but when it comes to energy that’s largely the domain of the province,” Thomson said. “So, it makes tons of sense to collect data at a provincial level.”

The updated report catalogs biofuel blending rates, biofuel types, and feedstocks utilized at the provincial level. GHG reductions are assessed annually by fuel type, with estimates of biofuels impact on consumer fuel expenditures, GHG abatement costs and the impact of taxation policies on lower carbon fuels.

“We see this data as critical for biofuels project developers who are looking to see what kind of fuels are being used in what jurisdictions, with what kind of carbon intensity, with what kind of feedstocks and under what kind of carbon regimes,” Thomson said.

Amongst the study’s highlights:

- Ethanol consumption has increased from roughly 1.7 billion liters (449.09 million gallons) in 2010 to 2.85 million billion in 2016, accounting for over 6 percent of fuel consumption in the gasoline pool. Renewable fuel consumption in the diesel pool was 540 million liters in 2016, accounting for roughly 2 percent of diesel fuel consumption.

- Annual avoided lifecycle GHG emissions resulting from biofuel consumption were 4.1 million tons per year in 2016, a slight step backwards from 2015.

- Biofuel consumption reduced fuel expenditures in Canada by 0.26 percent from 2010 to 2016, relative to a counterfactual scenario of no biofuel blending.

- The cost impact is equivalent to an average $16 per year savings for an archetypal gasoline consumer (i.e. private light-duty vehicle) or an additional cost of $223 per year for an archetypal diesel consumer (i.e. a long-haul trucker).

The report continued to highlight the need for a government review of taxation on biofuels. As biofuels generally have lower energy densities than gasoline and diesel, volumetric fuel taxes (e.g., excise, carbon) on biofuels unnecessarily increase fuel costs for consumers and create windfall tax revenues for governments. Governments should align fuel taxation policies to meet transport and climate goals by supporting increased use of low-carbon advanced biofuels.

Carbon pricing, whether it be a carbon tax or carbon levy, needs to be changed. Both of those are a per liter tax on the end user, some of them are applied at the pump and some at the rack, Thomson said. “In British Columbia an E85 fuel is taxed exactly the same as if it were a pure fossil fuel. That seems improbable, but it’s actually how the government implemented its carbon pricing.”

The full report and data tables are available at https://www.naviusresearch.com/publications/2018-biofuels-in-canada/