Eco entrepreneurs looking to score big with the growing interest in bioenergy should take head from the experiences of Fabgroups (Quebec) and Liberty Energy (Ontario) in getting approval for their respective bioenergy plants. For the growing list of companies looking to capitalize on growing “support” for bioenergy projects in Canada, there is much to learn from their experiences.
The Quebec-based Fabgroups is in the process of commercializing a plasma-assisted sludge oxidation system for the treatment of biosolids. Although not considered solid waste, the utilization of biosolids as a biofuel follows the similar principles and utilizes similar technologies as for biomass derived from solid waste.
Fabgroups is a consortium of companies with expertise in varies fields including engineering, contracting, and fabrication. The technology was developed and patented by Hydro Quebec.
Plasma involves the creation of a sustained electrical arc by the passage of electrical current through a gas in a rotary kiln. Oxidation of the biomass occurs in the plasma arc. The gasified reaction products are subsequently used as fuel to generate electricity.
The first commercial unit was installed in Salaberry-of-Valleyfield, Quebec (approximately 70 kms up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal). When operational, it will treat 32,000 wet tonnes of biosolids per year. The approximate cost for treatment is $60 per wet tonne.
California-based Liberty Energy came to Ontario 2004 in response to the Ontario government’s call for renewable energy. At the time, the company considered Ontario a forward-thinking jurisdiction that promoted renewable energy.
The company is in the process of getting government approval for a $120-million facility utilizing 400,000 tonnes of biosolids and 150,000 tonnes of wood waste per year. The company will use a bubbling fluidized bed to gasify and combust the waste. The heat of combustion will drive a condensing steam turbine coupled with a generator to produce 10 MW of electrical power. The company has committed to Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to control emissions.
Liberty Energy was first required to conduct an Environmental Screening Review (ESR) under the Ontario Regulation 116/01 (Electricity Projects) of the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). It did so in 2005. There were 12 requests to elevate the project to an individual environmental assessment.
With the promulgation of Reg. 101/07 (Waste Management Projects) under the EAA and with no transition provisions within them, the provincial environment ministry required Liberty Energy to conduct a new ESR under the new regulation, which it did (reluctantly) in 2007. In February 2008, the director of the ministry’s Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch refused to accept the two elevation requests on the second ESR conducted by Liberty Energy and allowed the project to proceed.
Wilson Owen, CEO of Liberty Energy, estimates that the requirement for a second ESR cost his company an additional $1 million in consulting fees. He concedes that, in hindsight, the company would not have pursued the project had it known it would take over four years to get approval.
Ted Mulhern, spokesperson for Fabgroups, stated that the company only needed a Certificate of Authorization from the Quebec’s Environment Ministry to construct the facility. He does concede that their bioenergy facility is a significantly smaller than Liberty Energy’s plan plant (32,000 vs. 550,000 tonnes per year throughput).
The Salaberry-of-Valleyfield project in Quebec received $2 million in federal government support from Natural Resources Canada under is Energy Management Program. The project also received endorsement of the town’s mayor, Denis Lapointe, who recognized it as solution to the increasingly unpopular method of spreading biosolids on agricultural lands, and also as a method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Quebec environmentalists gave their support for the project as seen in the Quebec documentary film Tabou(e)! In the film, the utilization of biosolids on agricultural lands is decried. One solution offered is the Valleyfield facility.
Liberty Group did not apply for any government funding for its project. With respect to local support, it not receive any. In fact, the City of Hamilton requested that the original environmental screening review (ESR) conducted by the company under the Electricity Act and the subsequent ESR conducted under the Environmental Assessment Act be elevated to individual environmental assessments.
Environment Hamilton, a local environmental group, opposed Liberty Energy project at every turn.
John Nicholson, M. Sc., P. Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at email@example.com
If your company has a new and innovative technology in the waste management or environmental protection area, please get in touch with John Nicholson and let him know! John also writes the Environment Business column for affiliate magazine HazMat Management.