Walker Industries, Enbridge Inc. and Comcor Environmental are partnering to develop renewable natural gas projects that aim to convert gas produced by the decomposition of waste in a landfill into green, non-fossil fuel-derived renewable gas (RNG).
The partnership’s first project is a $42 million RNG facility in Niagara Falls, Ont. which is currently under development for service in 2022. The goal of the project is to reduce the overall carbon emission of the gas supply used to heat homes, power businesses and fuel vehicle fleets.
“We’ve been generating landfill gas at the main site here in Niagara Falls for many years and we’ve been collecting it,” explained Mike Watt, P.Eng, executive-vice president of the environmental division, corporate with Walker Industries, a company specializing in construction materials and services, waste services and renewable energy.
“About 17 years ago we built a pipeline to a local paper mill, Resolute (Forest Products). They were burning our gas in their boilers as an alternative to using fossil fuel or natural gas which is a great environmental story. Unfortunately, Resolute closed down about three years ago. Since then we have been looking for opportunities to utilize the landfill gas we have because if we can’t have a beneficial use for it we end up flaring it off or burning it off.”
Earlier this year they connected their site with the General Motors plant in St. Catharines to generate green energy. That took a portion of the landfill gas.
“What was remaining, we didn’t see any direct use opportunities,” Watt said. “We started to look at something that has been done a fair bit in the U.S., changing landfill gas, which is essentially 50 per cent methane and 50 per cent CO2 into renewable natural gas.
“We started looking at the technologies.”
The new plant will use membrane stripping technology to strip out the CO2 and other technology to eliminate impurities in the pipeline like hydrogen sulfite, oxygen and nitrogen.
“It’s four or five different technologies and what you are doing is creating a gas that is essentially as close as we can get to 100 per cent methane, which is essentially what natural gas is,” said Watt, adding it needs to be really clean to go into a gas pipeline. “The benefit is this allows us to put our gas into pipelines and in theory it can then be distributed anywhere in Canada. If somebody wants to buy green gas they can actually pay us to buy a renewable fuel that is not generated from fossil fuel sources.”
The Walker Industries site has a lot of existing infrastructure including a gas collection system, which is a big field with wells on it to suck the gas out of the landfill. They also have flaring systems and compressors. The brand new $42 million plant will be for the gas cleaning technology.
“There are not a lot of buildings going up but it’s a lot of skid mounted equipment going up on concrete pads,” said Watt. “Most of that will be getting delivered after September this year. We just finished the engineering and we got our vendors all lined up. We’re just getting final pricing and we hope to be able to get some equipment on site later this year. We hope to be running the plant by Labour Day of next year.”
Enbridge expressed interest in becoming a partner on the project.
“Enbridge got excited about the potential of doing other natural gas projects in Canada and perhaps even in the U.S.,” Watt noted. “We negotiated this comprehensive agreement where we would actually work together on renewable natural gas projects on landfills throughout Canada.”
Many landfills across the country do not have good collection systems and some of them don’t have any gas collection systems. Only one third of those landfill emissions are captured and utilized and the rest are emitted directly to the atmosphere.
“In terms of future projects, there are huge environmental benefits to putting landfill gas infrastructure in our landfills, collecting that gas in a pipeline for use. You are eliminating a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions for Canada,” he noted. “The challenge is going to be smaller landfills, particularly small municipal sites where the money is not really there to put this kind of infrastructure in.”
The company is hoping to do more projects like this one in other parts of the country.
“We are negotiating with several people right now on other landfills to put similar projects in place,” said Watt. “We are hoping that whatever lessons we learn here we can roll this out to other sites across the country.”
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