Biogas cogeneration facility opens in Canada

By Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. | December 09, 2013

The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. recently joined Lethbridge Biogas LP at the opening of the largest anaerobic digester cogeneration facility in Canada. The $30 million facility currently has a generating capacity of 2.8 megawatts (MW)—e nough to power 2800 homes. It has the capacity to produce as much as 4.2 MW in the future with the addition of new generating units.

"Alberta is one of the largest oil producing regions in the world and with sustainable projects like the Lethbridge Biogas plant and other biogas and renewable facilities, we will become a world leader in these technologies as well," said Lethbridge Biogas President Thane Hurlburt, who spearheaded the project.

The CCEMC committed $8.2 million to the project, which is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 224,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.

"The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. is pleased to see its investment spur broader adoption of technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta," said CCEMC Chair Eric Newell.

The state-of the art facility uses manure and other organic wastes to produce gas and generate electricity. It also provides a liquid fertilizer byproduct used by farmers in the region. The plant has the capacity to process more than 100,000 metric tons of organic waste on an annual basis—enough to fill more than 3,300 tanker trucks.

"We congratulate Lethbridge Biogas on completing the build and starting operations," said Lorne Hickey, Lethbridge County Reeve. "There is great potential for partnerships with County producers to use agricultural by-products to generate sustainable energy."

The facility is unique in that it is a privately owned, off-farm facility. Such facilities are typically developed by municipalities or to support large farming operations. The Lethbridge Bio Gas Cogeneration facility is also expected to become the first facility in Canada to incorporate patented thermal hydrolysis technology approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for the destruction of prions that cause BSE in cattle.

The computerized facility currently has six employees and produces energy 24 hours a day. It can be managed remotely by a computer, iPad or even an iPhone. Regular engine maintenance occurs four times a year, and requires only a two-hour shut down to complete.

"This is an important rural development project that has economic, environmental and long-term societal benefits through waste reduction, energy creation and advanced technology application," said Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Cheryl Dick. "We are pleased to see this long-term value added initiative come to fruition and appreciate the environmental benefits this will bring to the region."

It took more than 10 years for ECB Enviro North America to get the project off the ground.

"The returns on these facilities can't compete with oil and gas so we needed to find partners who were interested in this type of venture," said Lethbridge Biogas LP Director Stefan Michalski. "The CCEMC was a patient and understanding partner and made things happen."

PlanET Biogas provided the final funding that was necessary for the project to proceed. The County of Lethbridge and the City of Lethbridge both supported the project. Additional grant funding was provided from Alberta Energy and Alberta Financial Services Corporation, a provincial Crown Corp., provided a long-term loan.

Having an anaerobic digester in Lethbridge where people can see the technology working first hand has opened the door to future developments in Alberta, including one by GrowTEC. This operation near Chin is developing a farm-scale anaerobic digester, which is also receiving funding from the CCEMC.

The CCEMC is a not-for-profit corporation that operates independently of government. The CCEMC focuses on stimulating transformative change by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help Alberta adapt to climate change. Funding for the organization is collected from industry. Since 2007, facilities that annually produce more than 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions are required to reduce their greenhouse gas intensity by 12 percent relative to a historic baseline. Paying $15 into the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund for every metric ton over the reduction limit is one compliance option.