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Harper Government Supports Commercialization of Biochar Technology

February 22, 2012
Vermilion, Alberta

The development of innovative biochar technology that will help generate new economic opportunities received a boost as a result of a collaborative initiative announced today.

Leon Benoit, Member of Parliament for Vegreville-Wainwright, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced federal funding of $900,000 towards Lakeland College to acquire two mobile pyrolysis units to test, evaluate, and demonstrate biochar products for the agricultural and environmental marketplace. Additional support towards this project includes a contribution of $450,000 from Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF).

"Our Government recognizes that science, technology and innovation are vital to strengthening our economic competitiveness, fostering growth, and creating jobs," said MP Benoit. "Today’s investment will provide the tools needed to test, develop, and commercialize innovative biochar technologies that lead to new products and applications for the global market."

Biochar is the carbon-rich residue produced by pyrolysis, a process of burning organic matter such as agricultural and forestry waste in a low oxygen environment. The substance can be used to improve soil texture and crop productivity, as well as accelerate re-vegetation of uncultivable lands. Further, preliminary studies also indicate that biochar has the potential to clean up wastewater in the petroleum sector.

"This biochar initiative contributes towards the emergence of a strong bio-economy in Alberta," said Richard Wayken, AITF General Manager, Bio & Industrial Technologies. "Alberta’s rural-based, small- and medium-sized companies will be able to deploy this green, clean technology to unleash the value in agricultural and forest residues which were once considered waste, and make the most of Alberta’s fibre resources."

The transportable pilot-scale pyrolysis units will enable Lakeland College’s Centre for Sustainable Innovation and industry partners to evaluate the quality of biochar from various feedstocks. Lakeland will also coordinate field trials to assess the performance of biochar. This initiative is expected to develop and demonstrate technologies that will enable the large scale commercial deployment of biochar applications for the benefit of rural Albertans. Further, this initiative will help to establish new markets for biochar products, while also generating new employment and capital investment opportunities in the region.

"This investment and corresponding research partnership with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures is a perfect fit for Lakeland College as it relates to agricultural sciences, energy and environmental sciences - three of our four programming pillars," said Glenn Charlesworth, President of Lakeland College. "The funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada enables us to purchase the equipment needed to produce biochar and ultimately help determine the environmental benefits and applications of this product."

Western Economic Diversification Canada works with the provinces, industry associations and communities to promote the development and diversification of the western economy, coordinates federal economic activities in the West, and advances the interests of western Canadians in national decision making.

For additional information, contact:

Donna Kinley
Manager, Communications
Western Economic Diversification Canada
Tel: (780) 495-6892

Jennifer Moncion
Business Partner, Communications
Alberta Innovates Technology Futures
Tel: (780) 632-8409

Colleen Symes
Communications Coordinator, Marketing and Enrolment Management
Lakeland College
Tel: (780) 853-8544

WD Toll-Free Number:1-888-338-WEST (9378)
Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-877-303-3388
WD Website: www.wd-deo.gc.ca.
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