A closed-containment coho salmon farm on land. Heat flowing to an existing pulp mill. And a pharmaceutical algae farm to soak up captured carbon dioxide.
That’s all part of Aquilini Renewable Energy’s vision for “eco-industrial” uses that would be paired with a garbage incinerator it wants to build for Metro Vancouver on Squamish Nation land at Port Mellon, across Howe Sound.
Aquilini’s is one of four prospective waste-to-energy plant sites unveiled Thursday that Metro will consider further.
The only other site not previously made public is one in south Vancouver at the foot of Heather Street, near the Oak Street Bridge.
The Vancouver site has been advanced by Plenary Group even though Coun. Andrea Reimer noted the City of Vancouver has banned mass-burn incineration within its city limits.
The other two sites – previously reported by Black Press – are one at Duke Point near Nanaimo, where proponent Wheelabrator/Urbaser would barge waste across the Strait of Georgia, and Delta’s Lehigh Cement plant, which proposes to burn garbage that it would first dry and process into refuse-derived fuel.
Several of the nine bidding firms already short-listed by the regional district appeared before Metro’s zero waste committee Thursday morning to outline their proposals.
The regional district wants to burn an extra 370,000 tonnes of garbage per year – in addition to the 280,000 that now goes into its existing Burnaby incinerator – as part of its strategy to end trash shipments inland to the Cache Creek Regional Landfill.
The sites unveiled today are strictly the ones proponent firms are advancing for their exclusive use, subject to negotiations and local government approval.
Six more have also been proposed but are being kept secret while Metro decides whether to option them for lease or purchase.
They arose from a separate call for potential sites that allowed any land owner to propose their property for consideration.
A private individual, company, municipal or aboriginal government, or senior government, had the chance to advance sites under that process and they are to be made public in the new year.
That would potentially allow Metro to discard a proponent’s proposed site, if it proves problematic, and instead match that bidder up with a new site from the second list ahead of further short-listing and a final round of bidding in 2015 by two or three remaining proponents with fully fleshed proposals.
Several bidders that didn’t submitted their own secured site proposal could also be paired with any of the yet-to-be-revealed non-exclusive sites.
Metro Vancouver is under orders from the province to fairly consider both in- and out-of-region sites in light of air pollution concerns from Fraser Valley residents.
Most of the proponents aim to build mass-burn incinerators, but say their proposal is state-of-the-art compared to many conventional burners in the world.
A couple of firms propose other technologies such as gasification.
Covanta Energy, operator of Metro’s existing incinerator, has filed two separate proposals, for either mass-burn incineration or gasification.
Covanta vice-president Chris Baker said gasification offers lower emissions than conventional incineration but the process can be harder to control.
Lehigh Cement spokesman Jasper van de Wetering said burning waste in the existing cement plant would result in no net additional air emissions in the region, because waste would be offsetting the normal use of coal or tires as fuel.
He said there would be no ash to landfill either because it would be used in the cement product.
The Aquilini proposal, paired with the salmon farm and other business ventures, is the most unusual, claiming to make beneficial use of virtually all emissions.
Proponents were questioned by some Metro directors Thursday on how their incinerators will perform if Metro succeeds in diverting much more combustible material for recycling.
Metro solid waste general manager Paul Henderson said current estimates indicate that while easy-to-burn wood and plastics might come out of the waste stream, so would hard-to-burn organics, resulting in no huge change in the heat value of garbage to be burned, or the resulting performance of a new plant.
Metro promises public meetings near each proposed site and says a final project proposal will undergo intense scrutiny, including a provincial environmental assessment and a public health assessment.
If approved by the province, a new waste-to-energy plant or plants could open by 2018, at a cost expected to be at least $450 million.
FVRD opposed to burning plan
Fraser Valley Regional District politicians say they remain opposed to Metro’s incineration strategy, saying it will degrade air quality downwind in the funnel-shaped valley.
“In spite of our attempts at imploring Metro Vancouver politicians for meaningful consultation, our fears have come to fruition – have chosen the most antiquated and ineffective method to eliminate their region’s garbage,” said FVRD board chair Sharon Gaetz.
“It is unfortunate it has come to this but as we move forward, FVRD will pursue all options available to us, including but not limited to, a legal challenge to prohibit the construction of another incinerator in order to ensure protection of residents, future generations and nearly half of the province’s food source, grown in the green Fraser Valley.”
Gaetz instead urges Metro to pursue an advanced materials recovery facility that she said would be much cheaper.
Such plants are increasingly in use in countries that have turned away from incineration, she said.
“Burning garbage is not a twenty-first century solution.”
A waste-to-energy plant in Stavenhagen, Germany is listed as a reference facility by engineering firm Aecom to indicate how a new Metro incinerator it hopes to build would perform.