Not many Canadians know about bio-diesel producer, BIOX, let alone that it uses stuff like chicken and pork fat to create eco-friendly fuel.
But stakeholders in the bio-fuel movement have always been hip to BIOX and its unique and patented process.
“The technology was developed at the University of Toronto, in the late 1990s, when it made absolutely no sense to turn vegetable oils and animal fats into diesel fuel,” notes Kevin Norton, CEO and co-founder of BIOX. During those years, he notes that petroleum-based diesel was cheap and biodiesel feedstock was high. Net result: the research was somewhat “academic.”
By 2000, realizing government and consumer appetitive for green fuel was going gangbusters, the founders of BIOX started to test the technology for commercial potential.
In 2001 BIOX acquired its worldwide rights. In 2007 its plant in Hamilton, Ont., was completed, and has been working virtually non-stop at full capacity ever since, pumping out biodiesel at a rate of about 60 million litres per year, establishing itself as one of the largest “continuous flow” biodiesel production facilities in the world.
The best way to understand the BIOX process is to first look at the “traditional” process. Traditional methods need a lot of energy and time to first deal with the Free Fatty Acid (FFA) content in some feedstock.
They need an additional layer to treat the FFA, or use feedstock with very little FFA, such as soya or canola. BIOX has no such trouble.
The other huge advantage of the BIOX process is that it is continuous. Feedstock goes in one end and biodiesel comes out the other. In contrast, the traditional process is a batch process.
Yet another advantage is its flexibility. Norton says BIOX can adapt “on the fly” to various raw materials, As such, BIOX is more able to use cheaper “non food grade” feedstocks – the high FFA content animal fats, crude palm oil, used cooking oil from restaurants, etc., that typically end up in cosmetic and/or animal feed markets.
BIOX also considers itself “supply agnostic.” They are not committed to any particular raw material stream or industry.
“We know the raw material markets are going to change,” says Norton.
“We actually source on a weekly basis, in about a 500-mile radius of the plant. We buy based on availability, price and logistics. It’s a different combination every week.”
Diesel transportation fuel in Canada must contain a two per cent renewable component. Certain provinces have their own, higher requirements.
But the U.S. is further along with both regulations and tax incentives, and that’s where the big demand is for biodiesel, and where all of BIOX’s fuel currently heads.
That demand helped, and continues to help, the U.S. biodiesel industry; it is clearly ahead of Canada’s.
But don’t blame BIOX. It’s doing its part, and in a unique, technical way.
Over time, BIOX will also surely help me and others turn around their negative feelings about chicken fat.