Canadian biofuels grant program gets underway

By Lindsey Irwin | June 05, 2007
Future Canadian biofuels producers are already taking advantage of the Canadian government's new four-year, $200 million biofuels capital grant program, dubbed the ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative (ecoABC). Since the program officially launched April 23, approximately 16 letters of interest have been submitted to the program, said ecoABC Manager Suzanne Keating. "We've certainly had a lot of calls, and everyone seems to be very enthusiastic," Keating said.

The ecoABC program offers funding to cellulosic ethanol projects; however, they are restricted to agriculture-based feedstocks, Keating said. In other words, while corn stover would be an acceptable feedstock, wood-based biomass and municipal solid waste wouldn't qualify under the program's guidelines. Keating said this is because the ecoABC Initiative is aimed at bringing Canadian farmers into the biofuels industry through more than just a feedstock supply role.

First announced in December 2006, the ecoABC Initiative was created to provide an opportunity for agricultural producers to diversify their economic base and participate in the biofuels industry through equity investment or ownership in biofuel production facilities, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

The program provides repayable contributions of up to $25 million per project for the construction or expansion of transportation biofuel production facilities. Corporations (including cooperatives), individuals and partnerships are eligible to apply for funding, the AAFC stated. The projects must have new agricultural producer equity investments equal to 5 percent of the total eligible project costs.

EcoABC, which will expire March 31, 2011, is just one of four prongs in the Canadian federal government's approach to renewable fuels, Keating said. The government has also regulated the ethanol content in gasoline (5 percent by 2010), enacted operator/producer incentives that replace an excise tax (beginning April 2008), and furthered research and development for next-generation technologies.

Vancouver-based Lignol Innovations Ltd. is one Canadian company that has been awarded research and development funding from one of the government's other initiativesthe Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). In May, the company announced that it had been awarded up to $124,620 through the federal program to support the development of its biomass-to-ethanol and other biochemical processes. Lignol also received additional funding for its project, which will utilize feedstocks such as agricultural residues and softwoods, from the Alberta government and the National Research Council in the amount of up to $994,620.

Six companies in central and eastern Ottawa will also benefit from federal dollars under the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative, a program that aims to help the nation reach the government's current 5 percent biofuels target by 2010. Kawartha Ethanol Inc., Wehrmann Farms, Energrow, Sunderland Co-op Inc., O'Connor Land and Cattle Co., and Clearydale Farms were awarded a total of $718,000 of the program's $10 million budget.

In March, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that C$2 billion would be set aside for biofuel incentives over the next seven years. For more information about the ecoABC Initiative, visit www.agr.gc.ca or call (866) 367-8506.