Canadian Manufacturing

FortisBC purchasing renewable natural gas made from wood waste

REN Energy's Fruitvale, B.C., facility is anticipated to produce over one million gigajoules of RNG annually, making it the largest source of RNG in the province to date

May 4, 2020  by Cleantech Canada Staff

A biomass crane handling wood waste. PHOTO: FortisBC

SURREY, B.C. — B.C. utility FortisBC is teaming up with biomass energy firm REN Energy International Corp., based in Kelowna-B.C., to offer renewable natural gas (RNG) produced from wood waste to its customers.

The production facility will be owned and operated by REN Energy and located near Fruitvale, B.C., and the agreement covers a 20-year partnership.

Philip Viggiani, president of REN Energy, said in a statement, “The plant, the first of its kind in North America, will create an immediate annual economic impact in the Kootenay region, as well our future waste-to-energy project regions will carry similar economic impacts in regard to the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, significant in-community investments and, of course, the clean energy product we create.”

Renewable natural gas is a carbon-neutral energy that is typically made from capturing the methane released from decomposing organic waste. This project will make use of waste from forestry operations, sawmills and other wood product manufacturers and, rather than collecting the methane from decomposition, will create synthesis gas (syngas) through gasification. The syngas is further converted to methane and then purified to meet natural gas line specifications.

According to FortisBC, this will assist the forestry industry with cleaning up bush residuals, thereby assisting in provincial forest fire mitigation.

“This and future projects like it will rely on waste already generated by sustainable forestry, making it a credible addition to energy production in this province,” said Doug Stout, vice-president of market development and external relations at FortisBC.

Advancing carbon-neutral energies such as RNG is a crucial element of FortisBC’s target to reduce customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, according to the firm. The utility is also working towards having 15% of its natural gas supply be renewable by 2030.

The project received regulatory approval from the British Columbia Utilities Commission last month and is expected to be in service in the summer of 2021. It is anticipated to produce over one million gigajoules of RNG annually, which would make it the largest source of RNG in the province to date.

Fortis says RNG blends seamlessly with conventional natural gas in its existing infrastructure which includes approximately 49,000 kilometres of natural gas lines.