Large-scale production of renewable synthetic natural gas from biomass (bioSNG) in Canada was assessed for its ability to mitigate energy security and climate change risks. The land area within 100 km of Canada’s network of natural gas pipelines was estimated to be capable of producing 67-210 Mt of dry lignocellulosic biomass per year with minimal adverse impacts on food and fiber production. Biomass gasification and subsequent methanation and upgrading were estimated to yield 16 000-61 000 Mm3 of pipeline-quality gas (equivalent to 16-63% of Canada’s current gas use). Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of bioSNG-based electricity were calculated to be only 8.2-10% of the emissions from coal-fired power. Although predicted production costs ($17-21 GJ-1) were much higher than current energy prices, a value for low-carbon energy would narrow the price differential. A bioSNG sector could infuse Canada’s rural economy with $41-130 billion of investments and create 410 000-1 300 000 jobs while developing a nation-wide low-carbon energy system.