An energy technology project that converts wood waste into renewable natural gas has been providing energy to Edmonton homes and businesses for six months in a demonstration project, and now its ready to scale up.
“It’s a great relief (from) all this hard work and the close cooperation and support of all of our partners – it’s tremendous to have this out and running at this stage,” Edson Ng, principal of G4 Insights Inc., the Vancouver-based company developing and commercializing the process to produce renewable natural gas.
The project has been 11 years in the making. “We‘ve been chipping away for quite a while,” said Ng.
During the six-month demonstration project, G4 Insights converted forest residues into renewable natural gas and injected that gas directly into the natural gas distribution system operated by ATCO.
The company aims to expand it into a small commercial plant in three to five years, he said. To be economically viable, the plant would need to process about 36 tonnes of wood waste per day, but to match the waste produced by a sawmill, that would need to ramp up to about 750 tonnes a day, Ng said.
“This project is a prime example of the innovation and tech Alberta needs to move forward in ways that benefit both the environment and the economy. It demonstrates renewable natural gas can be injected successfully into a grid, which creates opportunities for emissions reductions and results in consumers using cleaner fuels,” said Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon.
Eighty-five per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions are produced from renewable natural gas using forest residue compared to conventional natural gas, said Ng.
Forest residue, which includes every part of the tree, can be converted into solid, liquid or gaseous biofuels such as renewable natural gas. It can then be used as an alternative energy source to fuel transportation or industrial processes, and it can used interchangeably by customers without any equipment modifications, the company said.
The gas produced from organic waste from farms, forests, landfills and water treatment plants is captured, cleaned and injected in the natural gas pipeline infrastructure to be delivered and used in the same way and with the same equipment and appliances as natural gas by homes, and businesses.
“The infrastructure is already there,” said Ng.
It could provide a balance in the mix of renewable energy sources, since solar and wind-power generation can be intermittent, he said.
Alberta Innovates provided $250,00 in funding to the G4 Insights project under the Alberta Bio Future program. The project was also funded in part by grants from the Natural Gas Innovation Fund, Natural Resources Canada, and in-kind donations from ATCO and FPInnovations for a total of $2.8 million.