Assessment of Bio-hubs in Canada

Dec 2022

Bioenergy from forest biomass can play an important role in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy, considering its huge forest resources. This report – produced in the frame of IEA Bioenergy Task 43 (biomass supply) – presents a first-of-its-kind study on the assessment of bio-hubs in Canada. It summarizes biomass feedstock availability and discusses various pathways of bioproduct production (firewood, bark, woodchips, regular pellets, torrefied pellets, biochar, and bio-oil) from forestry operations.

Full report available here
Development of Techno-economic Model for Assessment of Bio-hubs in Canada


Canada is covered by 347 million hectares of forest and the volume of forest wood is about 47 billion m³. Forestry is a 74 billion dollar per year industry, thereby contributing significantly to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. However, moving from print to electronic media has decreased the forest industry’s revenue, especially in the pulp and paper sector. While forest resources in Canada are mostly used for pulp and lumber, they can also supply renewable energy and non-energy needs in a sustainable manner in the long-term. For example, wood pellets can replace coal to provide heat and power. Forest biomass can be converted to liquid fuels through a range of processes. Forest residues, generated from logging operations, are normally burned to prevent forest fires, but these can be used to produce fuels instead.

To reposition the forest industry in Canada and develop the bioeconomy, new practices need to be put in place to make main forest products, as well as by-products and residues, available in accessible locations and at a low cost.

The three main forest residues in Canada are

  • Primary or harvest residues (including those unsuitable for lumber, material from stand thinning, and nonmerchantable residuals from insect- or fire-affected trees).
  • Secondary residues or by-products of industrial operations (like bark, black liquor, etc.). Secondary residues are mostly used to meet energy demands in mills or to develop forest products.
  • Tertiary residues or by-products from construction and demolition waste activities. Tertiary residues are relatively underused due to limited supply.

Bioenergy generation from forest residues predominantly depends on primary residues, with intermittent supply from other resources like logging following natural disturbances.


The study conducted a literature review to estimate the amount of biomass available in three Canadian regions and developed a framework to assess the economic viability of producing forest-based bioenergy products in bio-hubs. The bio-hub model aims to establish a value-added supply chain for increasing the accessibility and value of forest biomass while meeting the needs of biorefinery and biofuel industries. Bio-hubs serve as storage, loading, and processing facilities where biomass can be reloaded and transported to industries by different means. The bio-hubs may have different configurations, dedicated for operations like storage, sorting, processing, conversion to intermediates, and reloading.

The specific objectives of this research are to review of the amount and type of biomass available in three Canadian regions to appropriately size and design the bio-hubs, calculate the cost of processing raw forest biomass at a bio-hub through several different pathways, develop the cost estimates for bio-hubs for three regions of Canada (western Canada, central Canada, and eastern Canada) considering the characteristics of the industry in these regions, develop a tool for the TEA of bio-hubs and make it “plug and play” for stakeholders in Canada and other jurisdictions, conduct a case study of a real bio-hub using the developed TEA tool.


The products considered in this study that could be produced from forest biomass in a bio-hub are firewood, bark, wood chips, regular pellets, torrefied pellets, biochar, and bio-oil.

The models show a minor difference in production cost of various bioproducts at different biohub locations. For a bio-hub capacity of 500,000 dt/y (1500 dt/d) the following cost estimates were made:

  • Firewood production was estimated to be $46.4/dt, $47.9/dt, $48.1/dt, for western Canada, central Canada, and eastern Canada, respectively.
  • Woodchip production cost was estimated to be $38/dt for western Canada and $40/dt for both central and western Canada.
  • The production cost values of regular pellets and torrefied pellets were $118/dt and $157/dt, respectively, for a bio-hub located in western Canada. The production cost values of pellets for central and eastern Canada were $120/dt and $158/dt for regular and torrefied pellets, respectively.
  • Biochar production cost values were estimated to be $87/dt for western Canada and $89/dt for both central and eastern Canada.
  • The bio-oil production cost value was estimated to be around $490/kL for all three regions in Canada.

All cost values for bioproducts discussed above refer to (nonmerchantable) whole tree biomass feedstock.

Figure: typical primary forest residues as a source for bioenergy.
Source: Wood pellet association of Canada