CALGARY - It hasn't been an easy road for biofuels in Canada, but green energy producer Bullfrog Power is hoping to get some mileage out of a new program announced Friday.
Bullfrog is offering to arrange for used cooking oil to be converted into biodiesel for companies that want to offset their carbon emissions, and later extend the program to retail customers.
A key issue is that the company is promoting the use of advanced biofuels fashioned from waste materials rather than food crops, one of the ongoing criticisms of the biofuel industry.
Company CEO Ron Seftel said that he's pushing for more uptake of advanced biodiesel because it's less controversial, and it can reduce vehicle emissions by 90 per cent compared with conventional diesel.
"It's a pretty significant reduction in GHGs on a litre per litre basis," said Seftel.
Donald Smith, CEO of research group BioFuelNet Canada, said hopes for greater use of crop-based fuel in cars have suffered amid criticism over using food for fuel, questions about how much it actually reduces emissions and lately the plunge in gasoline prices.
Then there is the problem of modest government targets for biofuel use, Smith said in an interview.
"On the Canadian side of things policy has not been strong," he said. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm."
Progress on advanced biofuels is further along in the United States, according to Smith, with several plants producing hundreds of millions of litres of ethanol by processing corn cobs, leaves, husk and stalks.
In Canada there are some developments on the advanced biofuel side, such as clean tech company Enerkem opening a plant in Edmonton last year that will convert the city's garbage into 38 million litres of ethanol and methanol a year.
But more conventional biofuels still dominates the market.
On Thursday, Atlantic Biodiesel opened a plant in southern Ontario that will convert canola and soybean oil into 170 million litres of biodiesel a year.
Company COO Michael Paszti said a significant portion of the oil used in the plant comes as a waste byproduct, and the process helps both farmers and the environment.
He said Canada's current mandate that biodiesel make up at least two per cent of diesel fuel creates a sizable 500 million litres of biodiesel demand, but the industry is pushing for the mandate to be increased to five per cent.
"You live and die on government mandates," said Paszti. "Government environmental policy in Canada and the U.S. is what drives renewable fuels takeup."
Follow @ibickis on Twitter