Bioenergy Optimization Program Demonstration

Project Manager: Alex Macleod, OERD, NRCan – Ottawa
Lead Proponent: Manitoba Hydro
CEF Contribution: $ 2.77 M
Project Total: $ 6 M
Strategic Area: Bioenergy
Location: Multiple locations in Manitoba


Manitoba Hydro is a Crown Corporation and the major energy utility serving the Province of Manitoba. The Corporation is based in Winnipeg and the utility exports electricity to over 30 electric utilities through its participation in 4 wholesale markets in Canada and the mid-western United States.

Manitoba Hydro in conjunction with the utility’s host site customers will be showcasing five pathways for converting raw biomass into useful energy. The five pathways include pyrolysis oil, syngas, waste heat, biogas and biocarbon. The installed capital cost of commercial Renewable & Clean Energy (RCE) Systems based on the chosen pathways are anticipated to average $3,500 to $5,000 per kW electrical. Each of the technologies associated with each pathway are modular and thereby afford the opportunity to be mass produced and installed with minimal cost.

In addition, the technologies to be deployed are either the first installation or application of the technologies in Canada or involve a novel aspect such as cold climate testing. The demonstration sites selected were based on the keen interest of the host in renewable and clean energy and the available infrastructure at the site. The demonstration project is scheduled to be operable from 2010 to 2013. Each site will be monitored and include an outreach program to raise awareness on the respective technologies.

Add-on Project:  Enhancements to 3 of 5 sub-projects funded by CEF: 

  1. Remote Community Demonstration – application of small scale biomass or waste heat CHP technology in a remote northern community to offset diesel generated electricity. 
  2. Biogas Demonstration Enhancement – application of solid-liquid separation to digested dairy manure to improve nutrient management benefits and application of co-substrate addition to increase biogas productivity in an anaerobic digester system. 
  3. Biocarbon Demonstration Enhancement – application of alternative feedstocks such as cattails and crop residues to produce biocarbon and the application fo biocarbon as a means to improve fertility and carbon sequestration and storage in agricultural soils.


The primary objective of the demonstration project is to break down the perceived technical and operational risk associated with the adoption of new technology by showcasing the actual conversion processes and equipment necessary to convert a variety of raw forms of biomass into useful energy. This approach is necessary to transform the market for traditional forms of energy supply systems towards more sustainable and renewable forms of energy supply.

The demonstration project is a first step in Manitoba Hydro’s efforts to encourage agricultural and industrial customers to incorporate biomass-to-energy conversion systems into their site operations in order to offset energy purchases and improve environmental performance.

Benefits to Canada:

In total, the five demonstration components will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 12,800 t/yr CO2 equivalent in Manitoba. Significantly higher GHG reductions would be realized if these technologies were deployed in jurisdictions that rely on heat and electricity generation derived from fossil fuels.

Moreover, the five demonstration components will be instrumental for reassuring adopters of these types of technology from across Canada. Manitoba is seen to be an ideal jurisdiction in Canada to demonstrate the viability of RCE, as it has amongst the lowest energy prices in North America, especially for electricity. The expectation is that RCE systems successfully deployed in Manitoba should be viable in other jurisdictions within Canada. This should promote replication and further CO2 abatement across Canada.

Project Status:

Pyrolysis Oil Component

Pyrolysis oil is a renewable liquid fuel produced from the rapid pyrolysis of wood biomass. The initial phase of the project involved the productionand use of pyrolysis oil as a replacement for heavy fuel oil in a large scale, back pressure steam turbine combined heat and power(CHP) system (15 MW electrical capacity). The Tolko Kraft Paper Mill in The Pas, Manitoba, was the host site. The mill relies on a combination of hog fuel, waste oil, and bunker C (no. 6 fuel oil) fuels to produce high pressure steam for process heat and electricity generation. The equipment and services for this project were provided by Ensyn Technologies Ltd., based in Ottawa, Ontario. In addition, a smaller scale demonstration featuring the combustion of pyrolysis oil to provide heat to a community distributed heating network was performed at Rock Lake Colony near Grosse Isle, Manitoba. Both sites were set up as short term trials.

(Web link to video:


Ensyn Technologies pyrolysis oil pumping unit being viewed by Jeremy Langner, Manitoba Hydro, and Dave Marin, Tolko Kraft Paper


Synthesis Gas (Syngas) Component

Syngas is a low energy content combustible gas produced by a thermal chemical process known as gasification. The project involves the productionand utilization of syngas through biomass gasification and combustion in a reciprocating engine-driven generator combined heat and power (CHP) system. The Pineland Forest Nursery near Hadashville, Manitoba, is the host site. The system consumes waste wood to produce syngas for use in a 100 kW micro gasification system supplied by Community Power Corporation who are based in Englewood, Colorado. The site was commissioned in the fall of 2012 and is currently operational.

(Web link to video:


CPC BioxMax 100 micro-gasification CHP system at the Pineland Forest Nursery

Waste Heat Component

Waste heat is an under-utilized energy source, which in some cases can represent a viable supply for combined heat and power (CHP) applications. The project involves the production of low pressure steam through biomass combustion and utilization of that steam in an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) waste-heat CHP system. The host site for the demonstration project is Spruce Products Limited (SPL) in Swan River, Manitoba, where low-pressure steam produced from combusted waste wood is used to operate a 100 kW electric (ORC) waste-heat generator. The equipment and services for this project are being provided by GE Energy (formally owned by Calnetix Power Solutions LLC based in Stuart, Florida). The site was commissioned in the fall of 2011 and is currently operational.

(Web link to video:


GE Energy Clean Cycle 125 waste heat generator at Spruce Products Ltd

Biogas Component

Biogas is approximately 60 percent methane and produced via a biological process known as anaerobic digestion. The project involves the production and use of biogas through a complete mix anaerobic digester and 70 kW CAT reciprocating engine-driven generator combined heat and power (CHP) system. The host site for the project is Sweetridge Farms near Winkler, Manitoba, where the owners of a 200 head dairy farm are seeking better manure management practices.The digester technology for the project is supplied by PlanET Biogas Solutions from St. Catherines, Ontario. Construction of the facility commenced in the fall of 2011. The system is anticipated to be operation by the spring of 2014. As part of enhancements to the project, recovery of undigested solids for nutrient management and co-substrate addition for improved biogas productivity are being included on the project.

(Web link to video:


Plan ET anaerobic digester CHP system at the Sweetridge Dairy Farm


Biocarbon Component

Biocarbon is the carbon component of organic matter remaining after the thermal chemical process known as torrefaction or carbonization. The project involves the productionand use of biocarbon as a replacement for lignite coal in heat and power generation, and the subsequent utilization of syngas from the carbonization plant in a district heating network. The site for trialing combustion of biocarbon fuel was Providence University College at Otterburne, Manitoba. Operating services were provided by BioValco and Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute; all local Manitoba companies/agencies. Biocarbon was manufactured with pilot carbonizer systems in Manitoba and Sasatchewan in 2012 and 2013, and combustion trials were performed at Providence University College in May and June 2013. Biocarbon has also been manufactured from cattails harvested in Manitoba through the enhancement to this component with the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD).

(Web link to video:


Preseco (Canada) pilot carbonizer at the Rock Lake Colony


Remote Community Component

As part of enhancements to the projects being undertaken by Manitoba Hydro, three technologies – pyrolysis oil, waste heat generation, and small-scale biomass gasification – were evaluated for suitability in a Remote Northern Community setting. Out of these three options, biomass gasification was chosen for further study. The BioMax100 microgasification and CHP system supplied by Community Power Corporation is being trialed in a simulated remote community setting using small-diameter woody biomass representative of the type of trees that are found in Northern Manitoba. The operator of the system is an individual with the skill levels available in a remote community setting.

Diesel engine generator installation at Lac Brochet

Additional Links:

Video On Pyrolysis Oil Trial At Tolko

New Release: Government of Canada Invests in Clean Energy in Manitoba