Turning Radishes and Rutabagas into Revenues

Posted: September 13, 2017
Tagged As: Energy, GHG Emissions, Natural Gas, Waste Management

Methane released from landfill, source separated organics (SSO) programs, and wastewater treatment plants can be converted into a clean energy source known as Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). RNG is a low carbon fuel that does not add new carbon to the atmosphere, is interchangeable with conventional natural gas, and uses the same pipeline infrastructure to deliver natural gas to homes and businesses. Switching to low carbon fuels like RNG offers jurisdictions the opportunity to invest in more flexible, local energy generation which can help sustain local economies.

Municipal governments are responsible for managing much of the organic waste generated by residents. Organic waste is sent either to processing facilities if the municipality operates a SSO program or to landfill, where the methane produced by decomposition is flared. Methane is up to 30 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide if not treated properly. Your municipal government continues to be a key participant in the fight against climate change and GHG reduction. Our sector is continuously exploring opportunities to increase waste diversion rates, reduce waste management costs, and contribute to a healthier global environment. RNG provides a potential solution to these priorities. It is an environmentally responsible solution to diverting organic waste from landfill while producing stable, clean, renewable fuel that could be used to heat buildings and fuel vehicle fleets. Surplus RNG can also be potentially sold to your local natural gas utility and injected into pipelines generating a source of revenue that could be reinvested back into improving local services.

Municipalities across Canada* are already seeing the benefits and opportunities of RNG generation and distribution:

The City of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec

Saint-Hyacinthe’s biomethanation facility converts organic waste from sewer sludge, agri-food businesses, and the brown bin programs of 23 municipalities to RNG. The City uses the RNG to heat and cool municipal buildings, fuel vehicle fleets, and sell surplus RNG to the local natural gas utility, Gaz Metro. The facility processes approximately 150,000 tonnes of organic waste and produces 13 million cubic metres of RNG per year. The total project cost was $50 million: $11.4 million provided by Green Municipal Fund; $20 million from Government of Quebec; and $18.6 million from the City. The City’s facility was a recipient of FCM’s 2016 Sustainable Community Awards.

The City of Hamilton, Ontario

The City of Hamilton, which has used anaerobic digestion to process sludge from a water treatment plant for over half a century, recently began purifying biogas into RNG. The City has a “wheeling” agreement where Union Gas does not pay for the RNG that the biogas facility injects into the pipeline, but the City buys the remainder of its required supply of natural gas from Union Gas less the amount of RNG injected into the pipeline. The daily capacity of 17,150 cubic metres is expected to rise to 30,000 cubic metres within 20 years. The City’s public transit fleet, which consists of CNG powered busses, is fueled by approximately 5% RNG. The project was completed at a cost of $30 million.

The City of Surrey, British Columbia

In 2012, Surrey began building a biogas facility to process organic waste while using the RNG produced to power its waste collection fleet. Once operational, the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered trucks will be fueled with 100% RNG, creating a closed loop system. The facility will process up to 115,000 tonnes of organic waste per year and produce 120,000 Gigajoules of RNG. The local natural gas utility, FortisBC, will purchase RNG, manage the supply volumes and resell the RNG at the same price back to the City. The Government of Canada, through the PPP Canada Fund, will contribute 25% of the capital cost to the estimated $68 million facility.

Municipal efforts in Ontario to increase RNG production are now complemented by current provincial policy direction in the Climate Change Action Plan and the Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario that encourage the use of RNG in the industrial, transportation, and building sectors. This is tied to the Province’s ambitious goals to have 2% RNG usage by 2020, and 10% by 2030. More recently, municipalities can apply for up to $10 million in funding through the provincial Municipal Challenge Fund for projects that reduce GHG emissions in any sector including waste and organics.

As frontline managers of organic waste material, municipal governments are in a key position to unlock the potential opportunities of RNG production and utilization. 

* with thanks to the Canadian Biogas Association for providing information on the municipal case studies

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