Advanced Clean Energy program: Low-carbon fuels


Global markets are seeing a growing demand for fuels produced from low-carbon sources such as biomass and waste. Efficient utilization of these feedstocks has two-fold benefits:

  • The elimination of wastes that are potentially even hazardous and contaminated
  • The production of clean and secure energy

With expertise in biomass and waste stream characterization, biomass into stationary energy and waste-to-fuel conversion, and renewable fuel utilization, the low-carbon fuels pillar of the National Research Council of Canada's (NRC) Advanced Clean Energy program seeks to:

  • enable fuel switching by using negative-value waste streams and feedstocks for the production of low-carbon fuels
  • support and demonstrate the efficient utilization of low-carbon fuels in various applications including transportation and power generation

This will help Canadian companies capitalize on opportunities by overcoming technical and cost barriers through the value chain. Low-carbon fuel activities are driven by government priorities and regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate problematic wastes, as well as global need for innovative biomass and waste-to-energy solutions.

By delivering clearly defined cost and technical performance outcomes, the Advanced Clean Energy program's low-carbon fuel research, analysis and demonstration activities will increase business revenue and market opportunities for technology developers and suppliers while reducing energy-generation costs for electrical utilities and end users.


Our researchers have extensive experience in characterizing waste feedstocks, developing conversion technologies for low-carbon fuel production, and evaluating and optimizing the utilization of renewable fuels in various applications. This helps us offer clients access to world-class competencies and unique and specialized facilities conveniently located at the NRC sites across the country.

Waste material characterization

Waste-to-fuel conversion processes

  • Biochemical processes
    • Advanced anaerobic digestion systems
    • Bioelectrochemical systems
    • Biological upgrading of biogas and syngas to renewable natural gas
    • Upgrading of syngas to hydrogen
  • Thermochemical processes
    • Small-scale gasification
    • Hydrothermal liquefaction
    • Hydrothermal gasification
    • Hydrothermal carbonization
    • Fuel and gas clean-up and upgrading

Renewable fuel utilization

  • Reciprocating engines
    • Single fuel and dual fuel combustion optimization and emission reduction
    • Turbine engines
    • System integration – microgrid

Research facilities

  • Turbine engines
  • Microgrid
  • Solid biofuel characterization lab
  • Combustion facilities
    • Fuel characterization and upgrade
    • Homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) engine test cell
    • Fuel flexible compression ignition heavy-duty engine test cell
    • Fuel flexible compression ignition power generation engine test cell
    • Emission analyzers
  • Downdraft gasifier CHP system
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Biorefinery
  • Mobile anaerobic digestion unit
  • Bioprocesses and bioengineering development for biofuels production
    • Microbiological lab scale testing
    • Pre-treatment/conditioning systems
    • Bench/lab-scale bioreactor systems
    • Bench/lab-scale bioelectrochemical systems
    • Biomolecular systems and analysis
    • Analytical lab
  • Regulated and unregulated emissions monitoring
  • Gas turbine laboratory

Collaborate with us

Collaborate with us on strategic research projects to help de-risk your innovative ideas, reduce your start-up costs and accelerate your commercial development timelines.

Collaboration opportunities

The NRC is looking to engage companies along the value chain to develop and deploy integrated solutions for both stationary and motive applications. We are looking for:

  • companies producing biomass fuels
  • companies producing challenging wastes (both liquid and solid) looking to valorize their waste
  • technology developers of waste conversion processes
  • conversion system original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
  • system integrators, utilities and renewable fuel end users

The NRC is targeting industries with challenging wastes that require novel solutions, including industrial wastewater, sludge, food waste, municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste, plastics, and packaging wastes, as well as those looking to create fuels from these wastes such as solid recovered fuels, bio-oils and renewable natural gas.

The NRC is also seeking to engage with clients and community stakeholders looking to overcome the technical and cost barriers involved in the integration of locally sourced solid or liquid bio-based waste into stationary combined heat and power (CHP) systems. Our techno-economic and life-cycle analysis capabilities offer the ability to assess and identify optimal pathways at a variety of scales including: off-grid CHP systems in remote communities or industrial sites; large, centralized bioenergy facilities; and vehicle fleet-wide fuel-switching to drop-in gas and liquid renewable fuels.

The NRC aims to support clients and partners developing technology or assess fuel potential through chemical and physical property testing of waste streams, renewable fuels and renewable fuel blends. Gaseous and liquid fuels are also evaluated in our combustion engine facilities to test the feasibility of such fuels, to develop advanced combustion strategies, and/or measure emissions over various conditions.

Collaborator benefits

The NRC brings a unique multidisciplinary perspective to industry challenges around both waste-to-fuel conversion and utilization.

By delivering to clearly defined cost and technical performance outcomes, our research, analysis and demonstration activities will increase business revenue and market opportunities for technology developers and suppliers while reducing renewable fuels and energy-generation costs.

Industry players along the entire value chain can benefit from the NRC's experience with market-access organizations, our relationships with industry, and our reputation as objective technical experts. Our unique technology risk management capabilities help companies develop and maintain a globally competitive position, support quality improvements and reduce the capital, operating and end-user costs of their operations.

Contact us

Jennifer Littlejohns, Program Director, Advanced Clean Energy program
Telephone: 343-549-2645

Targeted industries

Solid waste management, wastewater treatment, agriculture, food processing/production, mining, oil and gas, utilities, systems integrators (defence, aerospace, engineering), power plant equipment manufacturers and suppliers (gas turbines, reciprocating engines, combined heat and power units), bioenergy technology developers (anaerobic digestion, gasification, hydrothermal liquefaction, hydrothermal carbonization), fuel producers, fuel end users.

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