New Brunswick

Biofuel industry ripe for growth in province, report says

A new report claims that biofuel could be the answer to several of New Brunswick's economic and employment woes.

Council for Bioenergy Co-operative report says industry could add $1.5B to economy

A new report claims that biofuel could be the answer to several of New Brunswick's economic and employment woes.

The creation of an industry centered around ethanol and biodiesels could generate thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue, according to the report titled Fuel the Future.

"What this report tells us is that bioenergy is viable," said Ken Magnus, the chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council for Bioenergy Co-operative.

Ken Magnus, the chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council for Bioenergy Co-operative, said the biofuel industry could create 10,000 jobs. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

"With just 13 plants in five years we could have close to 10,000 jobs."

The report, which was examined by third-party consultant Gardner Pinfold, also claims the bioenergy industry would generate close to $1.5 billion in GDP for the provincial economy and $273 million in new tax revenue.

"We're not reinventing the wheel here," said Magnus.

"This is an industry that has proven itself all over the country."

New Brunswick lags behind provinces, such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, in building such an industry. But the province is well situated to catch up due to the presence of Irving Oil Ltd., according to the report.

The federal government requires that a percentage of gasoline be blended with ethanol. (CBC)

Federal legislation already mandates that a percentage of ethanol be blended into gasoline as a part of its initiative to incorporate cleaner and renewable energy.

Irving Oil Ltd. imports all of its required biofuel from outside of New Brunswick and brings it into the province on trains.

Magnus said he's been in discussions with Irving Oil Ltd. about the biofuel industry and he said the company is interested in buying biofuel made in New Brunswick.

"In my opinion they're certainly willing, and excited to be able to buy it if we can build a product that is competitive in price, the requirements in standards, in quality, and can provide a guaranteed volume," he said.

"They'll buy locally. They'd rather buy locally. Why wouldn't they?"

The sun rises while a John Deere combine sits idle on a freshly harvested field. Corn, wheat and barley can be used to make ethanol. (Seth Perlman/Associated Press)

 Magnus said the market is already there, the product just needs to be grown.

"The good news is in New Brunswick, when you're fueling up you're already getting ethanol in your gas," Magnus said.

"So from an industry point of view, we already know that there's 100 million litres, roughly, of product being consumed."

Becoming a biofuel exporter

The co-operative claims that 300 million litres could be produced in the next few years, a conservative estimate, according to Magnus. That means that in a short amount of time New Brunswick could shift from being an importer to an exporter of bioenergy.

Alison Thomas, an official with the bioscience unit in the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, said that growing the province’s own fuel, such as ethanol, just makes sense.

"We've got a lot of refining going on here in the province of New Brunswick and currently we're importing those biofuels," Thomas said.

"So here's opportunity for us to produce it locally — offset an export coming into the province — so I think that's something that I think we need to look into."

Thomas also thinks the benefit to farmers growing the corn for ethanol and other biodiesel crops would also stand to benefit.

"It's an opportunity for rural economic development which is important to our social fabric here within the province," Thomas said.

"So I think it's something that we really need to look at, to see what we can do to facilitate that growth here in the province."

The report stressed the need to build the industry with local people and local investors in order to achieve maximum provincial benefit.

In 2008, the Department of Energy promised biofuels would be a priority area for the provincial government. In 2010, Irving Oil Ltd. withdrew an application for environmental approval to build a biodiesel refinery in Saint John.

The discussion of biofuels comes as New Brunswick has doubled-down on fossil fuels in past months.

A new pipeline is proposed to deliver crude oil from the oilsands in Western Canada to Saint John and shale gas companies have been conducting tests in parts of New Brunswick to see if there is a possibility to create a viable gas industry.