A paradigm shift towards production of sustainable bioenergy and advanced products from Cannabis/hemp biomass in Canada

Biomass Convers Biorefin. 2022 Mar 19:1-22. doi: 10.1007/s13399-022-02570-6. Online ahead of print.


The global cannabis (Cannabis sativa) market was 17.7 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach up to 40.6 billion by 2024. Canada is the 2nd nation to legalize cannabis with a massive sale of $246.9 million in the year 2021. Waste cannabis biomass is managed using disposal strategies (i.e., incineration, aerobic/anaerobic digestion, composting, and shredding) that are not good enough for long-term environmental sustainability. On the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions and the rising demand for petroleum-based fuels pose a severe threat to the environment and the circular economy. Cannabis biomass can be used as a feedstock to produce various biofuels and biochemicals. Various research groups have reported production of ethanol 9.2-20.2 g/L, hydrogen 13.5 mmol/L, lipids 53.3%, biogas 12%, and biochar 34.6% from cannabis biomass. This review summarizes its legal and market status (production and consumption), the recent advancements in the lignocellulosic biomass (LCB) pre-treatment (deep eutectic solvents (DES), and ionic liquids (ILs) known as "green solvents") followed by enzymatic hydrolysis using glycosyl hydrolases (GHs) for the efficient conversion efficiency of pre-treated biomass. Recent advances in the bioconversion of hemp into oleochemicals, their challenges, and future perspectives are outlined. A comprehensive insight is provided on the trends and developments of metabolic engineering strategies to improve product yield. The thermochemical processing of disposed-off hemp lignin into bio-oil, bio-char, synthesis gas, and phenol is also discussed. Despite some progress, barricades still need to be met to commercialize advanced biofuels and compete with traditional fuels.

Keywords: Advanced biofuels; Cannabis; Drop-in oils; Enzymatic saccharification; Hemp fiber; Pre-treatment.

Publication types

  • Review