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Water Today Title December 9, 2018

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Feature

Update 2017/5/30
Renewable Energy

BIOMASS MAY END REMOTE FIRST NATIONS' DEPENDENCE ON DIESEL


This story is brought to you in part by Biomass Recycle


By Cori Marshall


Life in remote First Nations communities can be challenging with drinking water issues in many locations and the high price of fresh produce. Living in these areas means that there is no connection to a power grid, and these communities are dependent on diesel fuel for energy and heat production. Biomass may well be a solution to energy production in these remote northern communities.

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRC) "there are approximately 192 remote Indigenous communities in Canada, [that] rely on diesel fuel as their main power source." National Research Council Canada (CNRC) stated the use of diesel fuel for energy production "emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and negatively impacts local air quality." The burden of using diesel is felt particularly in the winter months.

The use of biomass provides a viable alternative to the exclusive use of diesel to generate power and produce heat. The CNRC suggests that using biomass to bring energy to remote communities would create "energy security and independence, local economic growth and job creation, [and a] revitalization of the forestry industry."

Talk of economic growth can be enticing but what is biomass and how does it generate energy?

The NRC describes biomass as "plant material that can be turned into fuel to provide heat and electricity." They went on to explain that bioenergy is "energy produced from renewable, biological sources."

The source of biomass can be healthy trees that are mature, though not suitable for lumber. The trees that are sourced do not have to be healthy they can be damaged by fire or diseased. The NRC states that biomass can also come from "by-products of industrial forest processes."

For this process to be economically, and generally beneficial for the communities "the biomass must be supplied at a competitive cost and its use for this purpose must cause minimal environmental impact."

To this end the NRC promotes energy plantations, which are "established specifically to grow biomass for bioenergy production." Trees grown for this purpose reach suitable maturity in less than 20 years, while growing them close to communities cuts supply costs down significantly.

This is how the CNRC describes how biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems operate, "the system converts biomass feedstock into synthetic gas (syngas)." The process continues by scrubbing the syngas "of tars and contaminants," it then enters the engine which produces heat and electricity.

As it stands many First Nations Communities are dependent in diesel fuel to meet their energy needs, and biomass bioenergy may be a solution to that problem. Having nearby energy plantations may help to stimulate local economy as well as cut down transportation costs considerably. This can be achieved with something that the CNRC said is "readily available in many Canadian remote communities."

Join us as we continue to look at biomass as a means to end diesel fuel dependence in remote First Nations communities.







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