Source: The Standard
Walker Industries has launched a new $42-million plant that converts landfill gas into clean energy.
The Niagara Falls site, described as the largest of its kind in Ontario, will capture landfill gas from decomposing organic waste, clean it and transform it into renewable natural gas.
It’s expected to generate enough green energy to heat 8,750 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48,000 tonnes every year — equivalent to taking more than 10,300 cars off the roads each year.
The Thorold Townline Road project is a partnership between Walker Industries, landfill gas specialist Comcor Environmental and Enbridge Gas Inc.
Construction began in October 2020, when the world’s attention was focused elsewhere at the height of a global health pandemic.
But now, officials are celebrating what’s being hailed as another innovative milestone in the evolution of the Niagara plant.
Walker has been operating landfills in Niagara for more than 40 years and managing landfill gas projects for more than 20 years.
Mike Deprez, vice president of transfer and disposal in the environmental division at Walker, along with other company officials, recently took a Niagara Dailies reporter and photographer for a tour of the companies’ environmental side of operations in the lead up to the renewable natural gas project launch.
Walker has three operating divisions — aggregates, industrial emulsions and environmental.
Deprez represents the environmental division, running the company’s waste business and business development. He has been a Walker employee for 22 years.
The environmental side of Walker consists of biosolids, compost, residential drop off, landfill and now, renewable natural gas.
“The campus works as an integrated unit. The landfill kind of serves as the hub that supports sort of the accessory uses and then it all functions together as an integrated system,” said Deprez.
“We’re a critical part of the Region of Niagara’s waste system. We take some of their garbage, we take their biosolids and then we take their green bin and leaf and yard waste.”
He said going back more than 20 years, the idea was to find ways to collect landfill gas “from a safety and an odour perspective.”
“So, what can we do with landfill gas? Well, we can collect it and we can flare it. But, at one point, that’s all we were doing — we were collecting gas, we were flaring it to destroy methane, you’re going from 25 times carbon to carbon emissions and obviously reducing odour on the site as well,” said Deprez.
“Then we said, ‘well, you can take that gas and we can make power with it,’ so we started running a reciprocating engine with it, so we’re making power via a reciprocating engine and we’re making electricity and putting it into the grid.”
He said a dedicated pipeline was created to feed into the former Abitibi Power and Paper Co.
“We had an eight inch and a 12-inch line between here and there, about four kilometres, where we were pumping landfill gas directly from here into their boiler. They were powered by landfill gas, taking only recyclable paper and making newsprint,” said Deprez.
“Unfortunately, today, not as much newsprint, facility is closed, so what we’ve done instead is we’ve taken that sort of gas volume and redirected it to GM. Now, we have a 4K pipeline going from our facility here to the St. Catharines GM plant, so through the escarpment, down past St. Lawrence Seaway, into GM on Glendale.”
He said Walker officials started to think, “well, we’re making gas, we’re collecting it, we’re flaring it, we’re turning it into electricity, we’re turning it into gas for GM, what else can we do from an innovation perspective?”
“We can turn it into renewable natural gas by investing in more infrastructure,” said Deprez.
“What we’re doing now … (is taking) our renewable natural gas via Enbridge and (putting) it into the Trans Canada pipeline and we’re going to sell it to FortisBC,” he said.
“We’ve measured in standard cubic feet per minute, so we are going to max out just south of 7,000 standard cubic feet a minute and of that, 4,000 is going to go into the pipeline to be sold to mainly Fortis but other customers that want to buy it.”
An official launch ceremony took place at the site Thursday afternoon.
“What we’re doing is we’re cleaning up the gas. The gas coming off the landfill is about 50 per cent methane and … once we’ve compressed it and we do some light cleaning from our older plants here, that goes to GM, and they can burn that directly in their engines. Same with Abitibi, could be burned directly in their boiler,” said Deprez.
“But to get into the natural gas pipeline it has to be 99 per cent pure methane and so that’s what this process does — it takes that 50 per cent and it takes out nitrogen, for example. We have nitrogen injection units that are pulling out all the nitrogen, oxygen, any of the impurities come out before it gets into the pipeline.”
Kaitlynn Valeriano, brand manager in Walker’s environmental division, said extensive testing has been done leading up to the launch.
“You have to test all the software to make sure that all your controls and your valves and everything is operating as it should, and then you slowly start to push gas through the system at a low pressure and then eventually as you’re more comfortable and everything is working as it should, then you go into high pressure,” she said, pointing to a yellow pipe on site which is the Enbridge injection site.
“That’s where the gas is actually kicking into Enbridge’s system.”
Deprez said Walker’s latest project is “really kind of the culmination of years of buildup in terms of everything being linked together here to make renewable power from waste.”
“It’s a complex project, so we’ve had our lessons learned along the way, for sure, but it’s going to be great once we start injecting gas into the grid.”