FortisBC and the City of Vancouver have received regulatory approval from the British Columbia Utilities Commission to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) at the city’s landfill in Delta.
The project, set to be the largest RNG facility in B.C., will capture and purify biogas created by decomposing organic matter, which will then be blended with the conventional natural gas in FortisBC’s existing infrastructure, thus lowering the overall carbon intensity of the gas being delivered to customers.
“This new and substantial supply will bring us closer to our target of having 15 per cent of our gas supply be renewable by 2030 — a key deliverable within our 30BY30 Target to reduce our customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030,” Douglas Stout, FortisBC’s vice-president of external relations and market development, said in a press release. “This is our largest RNG project to date and the RNG generated from the landfill will be delivered into the local natural gas distribution system as a renewable source of energy.”
According to FortisBC’s website, RNG helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions both by reducing the amount of conventional natural gas needed, and capturing and repurposing methane that would otherwise be released directly into the atmosphere.
As well, FortisBC describes RNG as a carbon neutral energy source because is doesn’t add any net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — when RNG burns it releases “biogenic carbon dioxide,” which the company says doen’t add to the “natural carbon cycle.”
The project is part of a shared commitment by the City of Vancouver and FortisBC to develop more renewable energy and support broader GHG reduction goals outlined in the province’s CleanBC strategy. In the fall of 2017, FortisBC and the city signed a memorandum of understanding highlighting a range of activities designed to reduce GHG emissions over the next five years. The landfill facility is expected to help reach those goals by boosting both the RNG supply in Vancouver and its use.
RNG produced at the landfill will be used in the City of Vancouver’s buildings and vehicles, including the Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility, which uses waste thermal energy captured from sewage to provide space heating and hot water to buildings in the city’s Southeast False Creek neighbourhood.
“This is a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to maximize the beneficial use of the gas we recover at the landfill,” Cheryl Nelms, acting general manager for engineering services for the City of Vancouver, said in a press release. “Conversion of landfill gas to renewable natural gas which can then be used in city vehicles and facilities supports our efforts to address the climate emergency and cut carbon pollution by 50 per cent by 2030.”
Construction of the Vancouver landfill biogas facility will begin in 2020 and take approximately 18 to 24 months to complete.
Once it’s up and running, the facility is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 12,500 tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking approximately 2,600 cars off the road each year.
FortisBC currently works with five RNG suppliers and owns and operates two RNG purification facilities on existing landfills. Since 2011, RNG use has helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 26,800 tonnes, which is akin to having 5,600 fewer cars on the road for each of those years.