About bioenergy

Bioenergy is renewable energy produced from organic matter, also known as biomass.

In liquid, solid or gaseous form, bioenergy can be a valuable substitute for fossil fuels.

What is bioenergy?

Bioenergy production is the process of transforming the energy contained in organic matter to facilitate its use as an energy source.

All organic residues can be converted into bioenergy:

  • forest residues, such as wood chips
  • agricultural residues, such as manure from hog farming;
  • industrial, commercial or municipal residues.

In Québec, the most common bioenergy products are firewood, sawmill residues, wood pellets, ethanol and renewable natural gas.

Environmental and economic benefits

Bioenergy can play an important role in the energy transition.

Here is how:

  • Bioenergy can replace fossil fuel sources such as coal, fuel oil, propane, natural gas, gasoline and diesel.
  • The bioenergy production cycle has a lesser environmental impact than the one for fossil fuels, for which the extraction, transport and refining generate large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
  • Bioenergy can be considered as not emitting any GHG when used, if it is derived from renewable organic materials and exploited according to sustainable development rules.

By switching to bioenergy rather than fossil fuels, companies, institutions and organizations will be able to meet their GHG emission reduction targets more easily.    

Examples of beneficial uses of bioenergy include:

  • Cement production requires very high temperatures, making it difficult to consider electrification for these manufacturing processes. For a cement company, bioenergy can be an alternative to using fossil fuels.
  • Some municipalities have established “heat networks”, linking together several public buildings (school, community centre, hospital, church, library, etc.). In a heat network, multiple heating systems using oil or propane are replaced by a single boiler fuelled by forest biomass. Such facilities provide financial savings and reduce GHG emissions from municipal and institutional buildings.
  • Biofuels are now being integrated into transportation fuels. This addition reduces the consumption of petroleum products and GHG emissions in the transportation sector.

Waste diversion

Bioenergy can provide local solutions to waste management.

In the long term, the exploitation of residues could enable us to:

  • avoid landfill costs or reduce soil contamination;
  • reduce current nuisances such as odours when spraying manure;
  • upcycle a local resource that is available and inexpensive.

Bioenergy production projects encourage sustainable management of local resources and consideration of all production cycles of regional activities.

The local production and use of bioenergy not only contribute to Québec’s energy transition, but also to its economic development and the creation of a green economy.

Types of biomass available

In all regions of Québec, human, industrial, forestry, agricultural or municipal activities generate waste, which may include organic matter.

Specifically, biomass is found in the following sectors: 

Forest sector

  • residues from harvesting activities (branches, crowns, twigs, foliage);
  • wood processing residues (chips, bark, sawdust, etc.);
  • wood without takers.

Agricultural sector

  • animal excrement (liquid and solid manure);
  • residues and crop production (fast growing crops).

Municipal, commercial and industrial sector

  • residues from waste collection (green residues, brown bin contents or unsorted organic matter in landfills);
  • sludge from wastewater treatment plants or sceptic pits;
  • residues from agri-food processing;
  • rejected paper and cardboard from recycling centres;
  • lumber from construction, renovation or demolition;
  • pulp and paper industry residues.

Technical study

This study presents the inventory of biomass available in Québec and the status of bioenergy production in Québec. For each type of biomass, the study indicates the amount of material that can be developed for energy purposes.

Uses of bioenergy

Biomass energy development can lead to the production of bioenergy in multiple forms:

  • solids: wood pellets, densified logs, wood chips and biochar;
  • liquids: ethanol, pyrolytic oil, cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel;
  • gas: biogas and renewable natural gas.

Biomass and its derived products can be used to:

  • produce heat, for heating public or private buildings (school, hospital, greenhouse);
  • produce heat to power an industrial process;
  • produce heat and electricity by cogeneration;
  • power vehicle combustion engines.

Assistance measures for businesses

There are various assistance measures for businesses, institutions and municipalities: please refer to the French version of this page to learn more.

Last update: May 25, 2022

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