Natural gas is inexpensive, seemingly plentiful and much cleaner-burning when used as an alternative to diesel fuel in transportation fleets, so it makes sense that Waste Management is converting its entire North American fleet to run on compressed natural gas. The company announced this week it has added 25 new CNG waste collection trucks to its fleet in Ottawa. About 80 per cent of all new trucks purchased by the company now run on compressed natural gas. To accommodate this fleet conversion, Waste Management has been increasing the number of fuelling stations it has to support the fleet. Currently it operates 17 of these stations across North America, but that number is expected to expand to 50 by the end of this year. Overall, the company has more than 1,400 CNG trucks in its fleet, including 100 added to its fleet in Vancouver last year. While this represents only 3.5 per cent of the entire fleet, conversion is happening at a healthy clip. It should be noted that Waste Management is also using route optimization software to reduce driving time and all trucks are programmed to turn off automatically after five minutes of idling. These are all solid initiatives that will help reduce emissions, but also reduce company costs.
From a greenhouse-gas perspective, the emission reductions aren’t massive — up to 25 per cent reduction — but the real gains here are in the reduction of smog-causing pollutants. Nitrogen oxides and diesel particulate matter are reduced by 90 per cent. Over time, it leaves open the possibility of using renewable natural gas, sourced from landfill gas and municipal wastewater biogas, to displace its fossil fuel cousin. The city of Surrey, B.C., is already heading in this direction. It now requires that natural gas-powered trucks be used for its municipal waste collection, a service being performed by BFI Canada, which has purchased 75 trucks that run on CNG. At the same time, it is launching an organics collection program for Surrey’s 470,000 residents and businesses that will see the household waste converted into biogas that will be cleaned, conditioned and used in BFI trucks. Surrey hopes the new biogas facility will begin operation in 2014.
Toronto was supposed to head in this direction as well, but from what I understand the plan has unraveled under the administration of Mayor Rob Ford.
I reported earlier on plans by the City of Toronto to begin converting its organic bin waste into biogas that can be upgraded to natural gas and injected into the region’s natural gas pipeline. Currently, the methane resulting from the city’s main biodigester facility is flared, but plans are finally underway to capture methane at the existing facility and a new facility to be built. There are two options for how the city will use the gas. It could sell it into Enbridge’s natural gas pipeline as a way to offset the natural gas it currently uses to heat government buildings, or it could use it to fuel a new fleet of waste collection vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. Hinting at the latter, the city purchased and recently received its first waste-collection vehicle that runs on CNG. Read the city’s news release here.
It would be a great achivement if Toronto could one day claim to be running all its garbage trucks on, well, garbage. I know it’s not politically correct to call it garbage, but you know what I mean. Better to offset the use of diesel fuel than to flare a perfectly useful source of energy.
The Toronto Zoo, the largest zoo in Canada and third-largest in the world, put out a request for proposals yesterday to build a large anaerobic digestion facility that will convert manure from elephants, giraffes and hundreds of other animals under its care into biogas. The plan is to burn the biogas to generate electricity — up to 5 megawatts — and use the waste heat from both the digester and the generation plant to heat zoo exhibits (offsetting more than $1 million of natural gas used by the zoo). This is just the latest biogas project to emerge in Toronto, which also plans to take methane from a large landfill, a major wastewater treatment plant, and two organic waste processing facilities to generate electricity, or alternatively, to fuel city transportation fleets. In all, biogas projects recently approved by the Ontario Power Authority under the province’s feed-in-tariff program, as well as projects in the pipeline, total well over 100 megawatts.
The Toronto Zoo, I should point out, isn’t just taking care of its own business. Only 2 per cent of its waste — a combo of animal manure, beddings and organic waste from on-site restaurants — will feed the digester. The rest will be a combination of organic waste from commercial and retail establishments in the surrounding community. Read the full story in the Toronto Star.
My Clean Break column this morning takes a look at a few ambitious initiatives in Toronto that will take biogas from the city’s main landfill and two anaerobic digesters, clean it up, and use it as transportation fuel, to heat city buildings, or to generate electricity. Actually, there’s a fourth major initiative — take biogas from the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant and use it for a combined heat and power plant. Together, these four projects have the potential to generate more than 40 megawatts of electricity, not to mention waste heat that can be redeployed to offset natural gas use. But all the gas won’t necessarily be used to generate power. Biogas from the two anaerobic digesters could end up being used to fuel the city’s entire fleet of 285 waste trucks, which would be converted from diesel to natural gas.
It’s good to see these initiatives finally taking shape… This is methane that would otherwise be flared, so it makes enormous sense to capture it and use it to offset our dependence on coal and conventional natural gas, or in the context of transportation, diesel fuel. Read the column for more specifics about the projects.
I have a story today on Enbridge Gas Distribution and its early investigation of biogas-injection into its natural gas pipelines. It’s already being done in several European countries and some U.S. states, and is even mandated in countries such as Germany. Enbridge, and Terasen Gas in British Columbia, are among a number of gas utilities in North America that are trying to prepare themselves for the day when “bio-methane” will become a common component of natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Will the biogas quality affect the pipeline? Can it be used in all natural gas appliances without problem? How much does it cost to scrub out impurities? What’s the best source: landfills, sewage treatment plants, biodigesters? All questions that are being asked and answered. Indeed, the Gas Technology Institute is in the middle of a $1.6 million (U.S.) study aimed as answering these questions.
Mandated access to such infrastructure would be in the public interest, and not just so the natural gas we use to heat our homes and cook our food can be a little greener. It’s important from the perspective of electricity generation as well. Continue reading Utilities prepare to open natural gas pipes to biogas