CETRi is actively researching, developing and demonstrating Biomass Technologies in laboratory and pilot plant settings.
Biomass Technologies involve the catalytic conversion, processing and utilization of biomass-based fuels and materials to produce value-added products such as synthetic liquid fuels and fine chemicals. Biomass sources include agricultural residue like flax straw, and waste from bio-industries such as biodiesel, biogas, ethanol, pulp and paper, and sugar cane.
One specific example of our research involves flax straw. Saskatchewan, Canada, the home of CETRi, is the largest grower and exporter of flax in the world. Once local farmers have harvested flax, they face a challenge regarding the disposal of the plant’s hearty straw and strong stem which do not easily decompose into the soil. Burning such a large quantity of straw would cause unnecessary air pollution. One solution to this challenge is to use the flax straw as a biomass feed to produce renewable fuels and/or value added chemicals. Not only does the conversion of this abundant biomass help provide an alternative energy source, but it also minimizes CO2 emissions as its net CO2 contribution to the atmosphere is negligible. Our researchers at CETRi University of Regina have developed a process for converting flax straw to furfural, an important chemical used in various industrial applications. Furfural is used in the commercial production of furan, a major starting reagent for many specialty chemicals. Furfural is also used extensively in the refining of lubricating oil and in condensation with phenol, formaldehyde, acetone, and urea in fertilizer.