The government of Canada and several of the country’s largest natural gas distributors are committing nearly C$2 million toward technology to convert forest industry waste into renewable natural gas (RNG).

Canada by itself is contributing C$800,000 to the effort underway by G4 Insights Inc. to develop a technology that would diversify the country’s energy mix, reduce emissions and create more economic opportunities, said Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

The RNG would distributed through Canada’s existing natural gas pipelines, Carr said Wednesday.

“Our government values innovation,” he said, and investing in clean technology industries allows companies to “be more innovative, more competitive and more successful.” The action also reaffirms Canada’s commitment to preserve the natural environment and resources for future generations, putting in place “real actions that will work toward Canada’s climate goals.”

G4 Insights would build an RNG demonstration plant and test it under operational conditions with a range of biomass types to generate relevant technical operating and economic data. The optimal site location in Edmonton was chosen to support all-season operation in outdoor conditions.

“The support from Natural Resources Canada for renewable natural gas is essential to creating a pathway to greenhouse gas reductions that are affordable, reliable and sustainable,” said G4 principal Edson Ng. “This project will advance G4 technology toward commercialization through field trials of enhanced subsystems for robust continuous operation and grid injection.”

G4 Insights is partnering with Canadian Gas Association (CGA) members Enbridge Gas Distribution, FortisBC, Gaz Metro, Union Gas, utility host Atco, the Natural Gas Innovation Fund, Alberta Innovates and FPInnovations, which together plan to contribute another C$1.35 million.

“CGA and the natural gas delivery industry have made driving innovation a key focus for the last six years with initiatives and investments around the use of natural gas and natural gas delivery infrastructure,” said CGA CEO Timothy M. Egan. “Improving the technology to convert biomass to RNG will support the industry’s aspirational target of blending 10% RNG in the Canadian natural gas distribution system by 2030.”

RNG produced from sustainably managed forest residue may emit up to 85% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels. Forest residue, which includes all parts of the tree, can be converted into solid, liquid or gaseous biofuels such as RNG that may be burned for energy or used as fuel substitutes for transportation or industrial processes.

Earlier this month BP plc paid $155 million to acquire the upstream operations of Clean Energy Fuels Corp.’s RNG business. Clean Energy is the largest natural gas fuel supplier in the United States.

“Our funding for this project marks the first investment of our fund, and we are looking forward to partnering with NRCan and other energy stakeholders in Canada on projects like the one announced…to support innovation, ensure the availability of affordable energy for customers and reduce emissions,” said Natural Gas Innovation Fund’s John Adams, managing director.

The technology demonstration is “another important step in providing options to ‘green’ Alberta’s energy grid,” said Alberta Innovates’ Steve Price, executive director of bioindustrial innovation.

Atco’s Dean Reeve, general manager of gas distribution for the pipelines and liquids global business unit, said his company hoped its support would accelerate RNG adoption in Alberta and commercialize the G4 technology.

Added FPInnovations CEO Pierre Lapointe, “This project demonstrates the importance of bringing together scientific expertise, industrial sector know-how and government support to solve the challenges of creating a clean tech economy.”