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Faculty member Gus Wright is holding a jug with the wood-derived fuel.

STEPHANIE LAKE/CENTENNIAL COLLEGE

Talk about making a silk purse out a sow's ear, or as is the case in a collaboration between Centennial College and the University of Toronto, making clean energy out of wood waste from the forest industry. According to Gus Wright, faculty member and principal investigator at Centennial's School of Transportation, the process involves transforming the wood waste – bark, tree tops, sawdust, stumps and the rest of the detritus from forestry operations – into something called wood pyrolysis liquid (WPL). This bio-fuel can then be used in modified diesel engines to produce electric power in remote communities and industrial sites, not just here in Canada, but anywhere forestry takes place, from the jungles of Brazil to the Siberian wilderness.

"By generating electricity, this process represents one of the highest value-added end uses for wood waste imaginable," says Mr. Wright, adding that while the research is still underway, there are indications that the fuel may be carbon neutral or even carbon negative. Apparatus for converting the wood waste can be built near source material or even loaded onto the back of single-axle trucks and moved around as needed, producing as much as 20 tonnes of fuel a day, more than enough to keep the lights on and the water flowing in remote locations where current energy costs are often prohibitive.

"By generating electricity, this process represents one of the highest value-added end uses for wood waste imaginable."

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- Gus Wright
is faculty member and principal investigator at Centennial College's School of Transportation

Mr. Wright adds that the collaboration between the college and the university is equally unique. "There are lots of synergies because it brings together different skills and resources," he explains. For example, researchers at the U of T are working on ways to reduce the acidity of the fuel, while investigators at Centennial focus on diesel engine modifications, looking for ways to better adapt them to the new fuel source.

According to Dr. Deepak Gupta, executive director of Centennial's Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES), projects like this create an all-win situation for students, staff, industry partners and the environment. "We're essentially taking a low-value product like wood waste and turning it into something useful like power, and doing it in an environmentally friendly way," he says. "Another advantage is that the process does not require the development of a whole new system, but rather the retrofitting of existing systems to use the WPL." Additionally, students working on projects like this get real-world experience helping develop new or improved technologies. "As a result, they are in very high demand when they graduate, get better jobs at higher pay rates and report more satisfaction with their college experience," says Dr. Gupta.

THREE-TIER APPROACH TO GREENING SKILLS

Institutional


• Institutional transformation

• Whole institution approach

• Strengthening local initiatives

• Developing capacity


Regional/national


• Coherent and coordinated green growth policies

• Sustainable development strategy

• Strengthening partnerships


Global


• Sharing evidence-based policy and practice

• Whole institution approach

• Facilitating interagency co-operation

• Supporting capacity building and research



This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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