Interest in biomass has increased dramatically over the last 5 years as people seek out a renewable resource substitute for petroleum based fuels as well as an input into other industrial processes. The majority of biomass is found in rural areas, and as such the bio-economy has the potential to provide much needed diversification of the rural economy. The headlines often tout biomass as an alternative to oil, and while this has potential, it can also be used as input into consumer products such as linens and construction materials.
The term biomass refers to living and recently living biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production, and commonly refers to plant matter grown for use as bio-fuel.
In broad terms, feedstock is any product used in the manufacture of another product: if you're building a car, your feedstock would include steel, rubber, glass, and so on. In biomass terms, feedstock is the biological source material for end products such as biodiesel, ethanol, or methanol.
For a bio-products based economy to flourish, specialized facilities called biorefineries will need to be further developed. A biorefinery, much like an oil refinery, is a processing plant that works to achieve the highest possible value out of biomass feedstocks. A biorefinery might use biomass to produce various types and grades of biofuel, an assortment of chemicals, animal feed, pure carbon dioxide for industrial purposes or secondary oil recovery, and even electricity and heat, either for its own use or to feed into the grid. The goal is to make the by-products from one process serve as raw materials for another product so that the least amount of the biomass is wasted.
Biomass Inventory Mapping and Analysis Tool
Developing a bio-based economy - one based on products produced by plants, animals and microorganisms - requires accurate and reliable information about the biomass feedstock supply, production and harvesting costs, and environmental impacts.
Although biomass can be purpose-grown, such as switch grass intended for ethanol production, a considerable amount of it is "opportunity" biomass, biomass that's a by-product or residue of some existing industry. Agricultural residue, straw and stover from wheat, corn and other crops, is one example; woody material left over from timber harvesting and processing, or even forest fires or pest infestations is another.
Producers of bio-products need to know the types, quantities and qualities of biomass available by location to make effective use of this material.
The Biomass Inventory Mapping and Analysis Tool (BIMAT) provides that information. Accessible over the Internet, it offers interactive queries and thematic maps that can guide users to sources in Canada of precisely the kinds and amounts of feedstocks they need for their processing plants.
The following partners have contributed to the development of this web resource. The Canadian Forestry service of Natural Resources Canada developed the source data and maps for the forest feedstocks. The Canadian Biomass Innovation Network provided financial support to the project.
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Natural Resources Canada champions innovation and expertise in earth sciences, forestry, energy and minerals and metals to ensure the responsible and sustainable development of our nation's natural resources.
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- Footnote 2
The Canadian Biomass Innovation Network (CBIN) coordinates the Federal Government's interdepartmental research and development (R&D) activities in the area of bioenergy, biofuels, industrial bioproducts and bioprocesses. Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Research and Development (NRCan-OERD) is the Government of Canada's coordinator of energy R&D activities, which include managing and funding CBIN.
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