Biorefining has the potential to be the next-generation fuel, with Thunder Bay and the region in the heart of the fuel source.

More than 120 scientists, experts in the biorefining, have converged on Thunder Bay for an extensive three-day conference.

Lew Christopher, chair of the conference and director for Lakehead University’s Biorefining Research Institute, said the conference is on the “topic of forest biorefining, which is one of the top priorities for research and development at Lakehead University and beyond.”

With several large biomass pulp and paper mills in the heart of the boreal forest, organizers felt it was time to start a International Biorefining Conference in North America.

“We work closely with all these pulp and paper mills and other forest products operations in the region, including aboriginal communities. For example bio-diesel . . . they deal with making bio-diesel from renewable resources, replacing the petroleum diesel,” said Christopher.

Making fuel from renewable sources, such as wood, is seen as a way to reduce the need to pull fossil fuels from the ground.

Replacing petroleum diesel with bio-diesel to fuel electricity generators will be much cheaper for remote First Nation communities. It would eliminate the need to transport petroleum diesel long distances and the bio-diesel is 80 per cent more environmentally friendly.

“We are training a new generation of scientists and engineers who will further develop the growing . . . bio-economy and biorefinery,” explained Christopher, who called biorefinery one of the pillars for the bio-economy in Canada.

Today at the conference, a plan will be worked on to create a biorefining strategy to help guide the emerging renewable fuel source into the future.