FRUITVALE, B.C. — B.C. residents could soon be getting their natural gas from wood waste thanks to a new partnership between FortisBC and REN Energy International Corporation.
The renewable natural gas (RNG) production facility will be owned and operated by REN Energy and located near Fruitvale, B.C. making it the first time the technology has been used to produce RNG in North America.
“We are extremely pleased with our FortisBC agreement spanning 20 years, to provide RNG to our fellow B.C. customers,” said Philip Viggiani, president of REN Energy, in a press release. “REN Energy plans to be a major factor in assisting with the FortisBC mandate of creating carbon-neutral RNG. The REN team has been working for the past several years to create the REN Solution that creates RNG from wood waste. The plant, the first of its kind in North America, will create an immediate annual economic impact in the Kootenay region, as well our future waste-to-energy project regions will carry similar economic impacts in regard to the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, significant in-community investments and, of course, the clean energy product we create.”
RNG is a carbon-neutral energy that is normally produced by capturing methane generated by decomposing organic waste. This project will specifically use waste from sawmills and other wood product manufacturers and, rather than collecting the methane from decomposition, create syngas through gasification.
The syngas is transformed into methane and then purified to meet natural gas line specifications. FortisBC officials noted the project will find a valuable use for forestry waste and unlock the potential for large new volumes of RNG. Using forestry waste could also have the added benefit of eliminating a source of fuel for forest fires.
“This and future projects like it will rely on waste already generated by sustainable forestry, making it a credible addition to energy production in this province,” said Doug Stout, vice-president of market development and external relations at FortisBC. “I’d like to thank REN Energy and the community of Fruitvale for their partnership as we continue to work hard to reduce emissions and advance towards a lower carbon future.”
The project received regulatory approval from the British Columbia Utilities Commission in March and is expected to be in service in the summer of 2021. It is anticipated to produce over one million gigajoules of RNG annually, which would make it the largest source of RNG in the province to date. RNG blends with conventional natural gas in FortisBC’s existing infrastructure which includes approximately 49,000 kilometres of natural gas lines.