Market Snapshot: New Renewable Diesel Facilities Will Help Reduce Carbon Intensity of Fuels in Canada

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Release date: 2023-05-03

Seven new renewable diesel facilities are planned, or under construction, in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. These facilities would add up to 70 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d), 4.07 billion litres per year (BL/yr) of production by 2027,Footnote 1 up from zero in 2020.

The implementation of the federal government’s 2020 Clean Fuel Regulations has been one of the main drivers in the development of renewable diesel production in Canada. The Clean Fuel Regulations, which were published in 20 June 2022, with compliance obligation beginning 1 July, 2023, require liquid fuel (gasoline, diesel, heating oil) suppliers to gradually reduce the carbon intensityDefinition* of the fuels they produce and sell in Canada. Clean Fuel Regulation’s target is to decrease the carbon intensity of gasoline and diesel consumed predominantly in transportation in Canada by about 15% (below the 2016 levels) by 2030. As Canada works to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, greater production of renewable diesel has the potential to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation of goods and people.

Figure 1: Existing and planned Canadian renewable diesel facilities

Sources and Description

Sources: Alberta Farmer Express, Tidewater Midstream, Storage Terminals Magazine, Cresta Fund Management, Renewables Now, OGJ, CTV News, CBC News, Enerkem.

Description: This map shows the location of the planned renewable diesel plants in Canada. The size of the circles at each location indicates the capacity of each facility. The facilities included are the Burnaby refinery, Tidewater facility to be built near the St George refinery in BC, the Covenant energy plant near Estevan, SK, Braya Renewable Fules (formerly Come-by-Chance refinery), NL, an Imperial Oil new facility near the Strathcona refinery in Edmonton, AB, the Varennes Carbon Recycling facility in Quebec and a new facility near the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina, SK.

Table 1: Existing and planned renewable diesel facilities in Canada
Existing and planned renewable diesel facilities in Canada
Facility Capacity (Mb/d) Capacity (Billion Litres/yr) Start Up Location Province Proponents Notes
Burnaby Refinery 2.0 0.12 2021 Burnaby BC Parkland Energy Coprocessing of canola and tallow biofeedstocks with crude oil.
Tidewater 3.0 0.17 Q1 2023 Prince George BC Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd A $200 million renewable diesel plant to be built in Prince George's refinery. Expected to receive $100 million from BC government.
Covenant Energy 6.5 0.38 2024 Near Estevan SK Covenant Energy  
Burnaby Refinery 3.5 0.20 2024 Burnaby BC Parkland Energy Expansion of coprocessing biofeedstocks.
Braya Renewable Fuels 18.0 1.04 2024 Come-by-Chance NL Cresta Fund Management Formerly Come-by-Chance refinery.
Strathcona Refinery 20.0 1.16 2025 Edmonton AB Imperial Oil Renewable diesel plant to be built in Strathcona refinery.
Varennes Carbon Recycling 2.1 0.12 2025 Varennes QC Enerkem, Suncor, Shell, Proman  
Co-op Refinery Complex 15.0 0.87 2027 Regina SK Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) Renewable diesel plant to be built adjacent to FCL's Regina refinery.

In addition to the Clean Fuel Regulations published in June 2022, the Canadian government launched the $1.5 billion Clear Fuels Fund to de-risk the production of clean fuels in Canada such as hydrogen, renewable diesel, renewable natural gas,Definition* cellulosic ethanol, synthetic fuels, and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).Footnote 2Definition* British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan all either have a renewable fuel mandate, or a low carbon fuel standard which are supportive of renewable diesel and other biofuels.Footnote 3Definition*

What is renewable diesel?

Renewable diesel (HDRD/HVO)Footnote 4 is a synthetic diesel manufactured from organic sources like animal fats and vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, soy). Renewable diesel uses the same raw materials as biodiesel,Definition* but its production process and properties are different. Biodiesel is manufactured by transesterificationDefinition* of vegetable oils and mineral fats. Renewable diesel is produced using a hydrogenationDefinition* process like the process used for desulphurization of petroleum diesel. Because of this, existing petroleum refineries can be converted for renewable diesel. Renewable diesel is chemically similar compared to conventional diesel and can be transported and used like conventional diesel while biodiesel requires blending for use in diesel engines.Footnote 5 Biodiesel can only be added to diesel in limited quantities due to its tendency to congeal at low temperatures and remove existing deposits in fuel tanks and lines, leading to occasional filter plugging. Renewable diesel may also reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, when compared with conventional diesel.Footnote 6Footnote 7

Canada’s renewable diesel demand has been growing in recent years, reaching an estimated 9 Mb/d in 2021,Footnote 8 or 1.6% of all diesel demand in the country, which to date has been provided exclusively through importsFootnote 9 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Conventional diesel, biodiesel, and renewable diesel demand in Canada

Sources and Description

Sources: Navius Research, Statscan Tables 25-10-0044-01 and 25-10-0081-01.

Description: This line chart shows the estimated demand of renewable diesel (red), biodiesel (blue) and conventional diesel (black – right axis) in Canada, from 2010 to 2021 in Mb/d. Although diesel demand in Canada has been increasing very slowly, reaching 540 Mb/d in 2021, the renewable diesel demand has been increasing fast from almost zero in 2010 to 9.4 Mb/d in 2021. Biodiesel demand, after increasing from 2 Mb/d in 2010 to 7 Mb/d in 2013 has been hovering around 6.5 Mb/d since 2013.

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