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By Lauren Strapagiel

Research at Ryerson is getting a green boost thanks to a new biofuel research initiative.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has announced the creation of the Cellulosic Biofuel Network (CBN) with $19.9 million in new funding for biofuel research.

Of those millions, several hundred thousand dollars are destined for Ryerson. The network is made up of Canadian universities, including Ryerson, Concordia University, the University of Toronto and a half dozen other schools. The funding comes from the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP), who promote the development of bioproducts.

The initiative is meant to give Canadian farmers a leg up in the growing sustainable-energy sector.

The CBN will work towards reducing the cost of creating biofuel as well as making the process more efficient. With the CBN, Parliament is hoping that a broad network of researchers will speed up the development of a eco-friendly, gasoline replacement.

Chemical engineering professor Ginette Turcotte is in charge of the program at Ryerson. Turcotte’s research is focusing on the steps that make up the process of turning biomass into a usable energy source. Biomass is organic matter like corn or algae used to create biofuel.

Turcotte’s proposal asked for $432,000 in funding, but Ryerson has yet to receive a final confirmation on the amount they will receive.

“This is extremely important because the need for biofuel is one thing that will make Canada and the rest of the world independent from petroleum chemicals,” said Tas Venetsanopoulos, Ryerson VP Research and Innovation. He added continued research is essential for biofuel so, especially in the case of corn, the need for fuel does not diminish the food supply.

Venetsanopoulos said the CBN is in line with national priorities, namely sustainable energy. When the proposal for the CBN first hit his desk, he recognized a strong team and an idea he thought had a high probability of success.

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture) made the announcement on January 22 in Quebec.

“Our Government wants to advance agricultural research that will help create economic development opportunities and deliver concrete results for our farmers,” said Minister Blackburn in a media release.

“This major research will not only help advance our cellulosic ethanol production, but will also help our farmers increase their income by producing new crop varieties designed specifically for the energy market.”

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