Lulu Island Waste Water Treatment Plant on the south arm of the Fraser River in Richmond.

Metro defends plan to harness sewage biogas

Cost of waste-to-energy venture criticized

Metro Vancouver is under fire for committing $13.1 million to a partnership with a private firm to generate more biogas energy at the region’s Lulu Island sewage treatment plant.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan called the project a waste of money and noted the cost has climbed $2.5 million from a previous estimate a year ago.

“It is not in my view the kind of expenditure we should be undertaking,” Corrigan said. “We have a lot of other places we could be placing this money.”

Metro’s board approved the spending June 24, with Burnaby directors voting against it.

Paradigm Environmental Technologies will outfit the Lulu Island plant with its MicroSludge system to greatly increase the production of biogas, which would be sold into the FortisBC natural gas grid as green biomethane.

Enough extra gas would be generated to heat 300 homes and Metro would earn money by selling it.

And the process would also consume more sewage sludge, which now has to be composted and trucked for use at a mine reclamation site near Williams Lake.

The region should save money on fuel costs trucking the sludge away and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Metro waste committee chair Greg Moore said the project may yield bigger cost savings down the road.

Future sewage treatment plant rebuilds – two are planned at a cost of $1.4 billion – may be able to operate with just four or five big digesters instead of the usual six.

“Those things are about $50 million each,” Moore said. “It’s a small investment that could have very large returns for us.”

Metro Vancouver’s net capital cost for the Lulu upgrade is to be reduced to $7 million thanks to expected grants totaling $4.4 million from the province’s Innovative Clean Energy fund and from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and from additional contributions of $1.7 million from Paradigm.

Metro would be responsible for operating costs but expects to break even over 25 years.

Metro’s board had turned down a previous Paradigm proposal more than a year ago.

But the company came back with a sweetened offer that includes a share of its future revenues and FortisBC offered to pay more for the biomethane.

Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt said he supports the project, which he called another form of waste-to-energy.

“We’re taking a waste product and converting it into a useful form of energy to replace the standard fossil fuels,” he said.

“If we focus on the technology, this is a great money maker that is going to work for us and also reduce the cost of future waste facilities by literally hundreds of millions of dollars.”

 

RELATED STORY:

Green natural gas hits marketplace