Could renewable diesel power NWT’s green ideals?

Assembly hears it’s an expensive option, even to be tested, but it works in Finland

Industry Minister Caitlin Cleveland in the NWT Assembly on Thursday, June 6. (Image courtesy Assembly Livestream.)

Regular MLAs were fairly organized on Wednesday, pulling together a series of questions on housing issues across the NWT.

Then on Thursday, the group was all over the place, tackling issues such as: Nutrition North’s failure to serve all communities of need; chronic student absenteeism; and even for the GNWT to “think bold” and give away land for private housing development rather than have it sit empty for years, such as with the Rockhill Apartments fire site in Yellowknife.

We also learned that Health Minister Lesa Semmler fully appreciates the stress and inconvenience handed to blood cancer patients, when they were told in April that hematology-oncology services previously provided in the NWT will be relocated to Alberta.

This decision to fly patients south – some even on a weekly basis – was made by Alberta Cancer Care due to limited resources in the NWT to maintain the level of care coordination required for these specific cancer services.

Semmler said officials are working with Alberta to secure an oncologist and to post a specialized nurse in Yellowknife to re-start the program. No timeline was provided.

Kieron Testart, MLA for Range Lake, entered into a debate with Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek, over the differences between a Universal Basic Income and Guaranteed Minimum Income. The Minister pointed to recent changes to the NWT’s Income Assistance program.

Perhaps the most informative Q&A was between Industry Minister Caitlin Cleveland and Shauna Morgan, MLA for Yellowknife North, on the topic of, renewable diesel fuel.

Renewable diesel and biodiesel (or green diesel) are not the same type fuel. Renewable diesel is a fuel made from fats and oils and is processed to be chemically the same as petroleum diesel.

Renewable diesel performs as well as fossil diesel, but is made from renewable raw materials reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 75 to 95 per cent compared to fossil diesel, claims a Finnish manufacturer.

Seven new renewable diesel facilities are planned, or under construction, in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Yellowknife North MLA Shauna Morgan on June 6. (Image courtesy Assembly Livestream.)

Renewable diesel can work well in very cold weather, but a special arctic grade is required, which is extremely expensive to purchase small quantities to test here.

Here’s MLA Morgan questioning Minister Cleveland.

Morgan: “Has the minister looked into what the Yukon is doing in terms of piloting renewable diesel and considered the possibilities of working together with the Yukon to get a pilot project off the ground here in NWT?

Cleveland: “In fact, I have actually reached out myself to my counterpart in the Yukon … we had a brief exchange on what efforts they might be engaged in with respect to renewable diesel.

“They so far have run into similar challenges as we have here in the Northwest Territories, which is, for one not being able to find Arctic grade to do a pilot on or when we find it, for a small volume, it is extremely expensive.

“That said … if we can band larger numbers together, it would be easier and … I expect we’ll speak again about this at … the energy mine ministers of Canada conference later this summer.”

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: