Project to Commercialize Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy Year-End Status Report - December 2011

This Status Report documents Working Group progress in assessing the feasibility of commercializing agricultural biomass for combustion energy, for the consideration of the Steering Committee. It identifies the activities undertaken by the Working Group and learnings from these activities i.e. what is known and still needs to be known on priority areas of focus. It also identifies outstanding priorities and how they will be addressed to allow for project planning.

Working Group: Environmental Sustainability

Chair: Rob Lyng, OPG

Working Group Members: Tammy Wong, OPG; David Armitage, OFA; Linda Pim, OMAFRA; Bryan Gilvesy, Norfolk ALUS; John Fitzgibbon, OFEC; Barry Hill, OSCIA; Nathan Stevens, CFFO ;Gord Surgeoner, OAFT; Adam Hayes, OMAFRA; Paul Smith, OMAFRA; Rob Cumming, Lafarge

Reporting Period: 2010/01 to 2011/12

Working Group Purpose

(Copy from Terms of Reference)

The purpose of the Environmental Sustainability Working Group is to monitor, assess, and share information related to the environmental sustainability of agricultural biomass used for combustion energy generation, recommend specifications of agricultural biomass to provide assurance that biomass sourced from Ontario's agricultural sector is renewable and sustainable, and provide input leading to the development of appropriate agronomic best management practices and biomass certification requirements.

Activities Undertaken or Planned by the Working Group

Activities Undertaken or Planned

Completion Date of Activities Undertaken



Identify and describe individual activities e.g. forums, consultation with experts, review of research, development of fuel spec or model


Study, data, report, presentation, memo etc.

  • Development of (draft) "Fuel Specification for Agricultural Biomass Sustainability Criteria and Assurance"


Draft fuel specification

The draft fuel spec was considered and agreed upon by the WG in Oct. 2010. Since then, considerations related to grower acceptability of an EFP-based sustainability spec have led to additional work on a sustainability framework by the BMP-EFP Task Team, which reports to the Working Group

  • Assessment of Certification Systems for Agricultural Biomass for Biofuels; USDA Biomass Crop Final Rule; Biomass Sustainability Criteria: Recent Developments in Europe; Council on Sustainable Biomass Production (CSBP)

2010/05, 2011/01, 2011/09

Presentations to Working Group by Tammy Wong, OPG

International reviews found that Ontario's Environmental Farm Plan stacks up well to US and EU approaches. Tammy continues to scan for new ag biomass standards – e.g. Council on Sustainable Biomass Production "Draft Provisional Standard for Sustainable Production of Agricultural Biomass" (July 2011)

  • Life Cycle Assessment of Agricultural Biomass (Heather MacLean, Goretty Dias et al.) – conducted for OPG


Presentation to Working Group by Goretty Dias

Publication planned in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy (GCB Bioenergy. Working Group members raised issues related to water footprint, and examination of soil carbon sequestration below the top 30 cm. Work continuing on Direct Land Use Change methodologies prior to publication.

  • BMP-EFP Task Team development of a Framework for Sustainable Agricultural Biomass Production and Removal

Ongoing (expected completion Nov. 2011)

Framework (checklist) for biomass producers to use to determine sustainable agricultural biomass production and removal, in conjunction with a peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plan

OMAFRA soils specialists on task team are making final revisions to the framework, to be presented to the Working Group for its consideration

  • Information-sharing re: Lafarge-World Wildlife Fund-Canada Joint Partnership to Explore a Biomass Fuel Future


Presentation to Working Group by Rob Cumming and WWF's Steven Price

Discussion about areas of common interest and issues where WG may be taking a different approach (e.g. EFP-based)

Significant Findings on Each Working Group Area of Focus

Focus Area

What is Known

What Still Needs to be Known

Based on key Working Group tasks and deliverables as per the Terms of Ref.

e.g. significant opportunities, challenges and barriers

i.e. critical information gaps

  • Agricultural biomass sustainability criteria from other jurisdictions and international agencies / organizations, and how Ontario's Environmental Farm Plan measures up (for certification purposes) in comparison of the biomass being renewable and sustainable

Ontario's Environmental Farm Plan content and approach stacks up well against other agricultural biomass sustainability frameworks, particularly with addition of sustainability framework / checklist currently being finalized by the BMP-EFP Task Team.

Need to know the sustainability standards / certification / verification needs of various agricultural biomass end-users as markets develop.

  • Monitoring and assessing developments related to new international, national and sub-national certification systems

New certification systems come to attention of Working Group and are assessed in terms of how Ontario's Environmental Farm Plan measures up.

Proliferation of sustainability standards / certification systems may present challenges for biomass producers planning to sell in the international market. For Ontario producers selling into the Ontario market, EFP and accompanying sustainability checklist should be sufficient.

Overall Assessment

(Provide an assessment (or preliminary assessment if more needs to be known) of the (technical, economic or environmental) feasibility of agricultural biomass for combustion energy. To do this, synthesize the information above on What is Known and What Still Needs to be Known and summarize the observations of the Working Group on biomass feasibility)

Environmental sustainability parameters for Ontario production of agricultural biomass for energy generation are generally well understood. However, a method of certification or other form of sustainability assurance needs to be decided upon for Ontario producers and end-users of Ontario-produced biomass. Sustainability assurance as a process associated with a farmer's Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is currently the preferred path forward; the BMP-EFP Task Team is finalizing a sustainability framework/checklist for use by Ontario biomass producers in conjunction with their EFPs. The EFP performs well against an international scan of existing guidelines and certification systems for agricultural biomass.

Life Cycle Assessment for agricultural biomass as undertaken for Ontario Power Generation is of considerable interest to the Working Group. Both the researchers and Working Group members have identified some limitations of currently available LCA models.

The Working Group's work will benefit from liaison with the Lafarge Canada / World Wildlife Fund Canada joint project on agricultural biomass fuels.

Outstanding Priorities

Outstanding Priorities

How and When Priorities Will be Addressed

Consequences if Priorities are not Addressed

Identify priorities that still need to be addressed to complete or validate the Working Group's assessment of feasibility (one row per priority)

Identify the activities required to address the outstanding priorities and provide the target completion date for each activity (yyyy/mm)

List the impact of not responding to the outstanding priority

  • Certification / sustainability assurance: Task Team's sustainability framework
  • BMP-EFP Task Team will present the agricultural biomass sustainability framework to the Working Group for its review, expected by Nov.-Dec. 2011.
  • Taking the sustainability framework forward is essential to fulfilling the mandate of the Working Group.
  • Certification / sustainability assurance: Evaluation of the Task Team's sustainability framework against (internationally available) sustainability assurance systems
  • Discussion at Working Group about the sustainability framework versus other sustainability assurance systems in terms of both Ontario biomass producer acceptance and the needs of biomass end-users. January-March 2012.
  • Discussion of the most workable sustainability assurance system for both biomass producers and end-users is essential to fulfilling the mandate of the Working Group.

Additional Notes/Comments

(Enter additional comments, not summarized in other areas of this report, but critical to understanding the status of the project in terms of its timelines, resources and deliverables)


(Identify the resources used by the Working Group to arrive at their assessment (e.g. reports, websites, key experts consulted) )

Scan of biomass sustainability certification standards

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