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Chilliwack looks at alternatives to flaring biogas

Total of $100,000 approved by Chilliwack for a study looking at scrubbing biogas for possible resale
Chilliwack’s waste water treatment plant on Wolfe Road could one day produce biogas scrubbed for resale on the gas grid. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack council has agreed to look at alternatives to flaring biogas from its Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A $100,000 study just approved by council, will assess the economic viability of converting the biogas to bio-methane, with equipment that “scrubs” the gas, opening up the possibility of selling it.

The biogas bubbles up from three anaerobic digesters at the wastewater plant on Wolfe Road, and methane is one component of it along with carbon dioxide.

There’s more biogas production on the way for Chilliwack with the the new high-strength wastewater pretreatment facility being built at the site, in tandem with the new Molson Coors brewery.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the main concern was doing something about the methane, which is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming over a 100-year timeline. It’s a question of reducing greenhouse gases, and the city’s carbon footprint.

A question came up at the council meeting about flaring that also occurs at the landfill, but those gases are expected to decrease with organics having been taken out of the waste stream.

Coun. Sam Waddington said it always “bothered” him to see the gas being flared, knowing it could be put to better use.

READ MORE: Before flaring was a thing

Waddington sits on the environment committee of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where the grant money for the study came from.

Some of these treatment plants other Canadian communities are making money, or breaking even, from compressing and scrubbing the gas they produce in order for it to be sold and used on the grid, he told The Progress.

“We will no longer be wasting a resource that could be used to heat homes and cook for families,” Waddington said. “And it puts us one step closer to going green.”

Initially when the issue was raised a few years ago, it was not viewed as feasible finacially, but with newer technology out on the market, it became cheaper and more efficient. That is what has changed to make this possible.

“I do think City of Chilliwack should be willing to pay a premimum in the name of greening and protecting the airshed, as we have professed to make a priority,” Waddington said.

READ MORE: $6M landfill project

City officials applied for grant funding up to a max of $100,000 in July to to explore options for biogas use at the plant. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) approved $80,000 in funding last month from its Climate Innovation Program (MCIP) to conduct ‘Biogas Feasibility Study.’

The study will cover:

• Determination of existing and projected Biogas production through the existing digesters;

• Determination of projected Biogas production through the addition of organic waste from the municipal solid waste stream (excluding yard waste), fats, oils and grease (FOG) from the restaurant industry, and through the new brewery waste pre-treatment facility;

• Evaluation of potential biogas uses including the generation of electricity, and upgrade of biogas to bio-methane;

• Focus on reduction in GHG emissions to determine the overall environmental benefit from converting biogas into bio-methane or electricity instead of flaring into the atmosphere;

Council passed a recommendation Tuesday to accept the proposal for the provision of engineering services for the Biogas Feasibility Study from Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd., in the amount of $100,000 (plus applicable taxes).



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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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