A new project at Metro Vancouver’s Lulu Island Wastewater Treatment Plant will recover heat from treated sewage for use in plant operations, while increasing renewable natural gas production and helping to support regional climate action goals.

This clean energy initiative is possible thanks to support from the federal and provincial governments through the second intake of the CleanBC Communities Fund, under the green infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

“Generating clean, renewable energy from wastewater supports the targets set out in our regional climate strategy, Climate 2050,” said Sav Dhaliwal, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Board of Directors. “We are grateful to our partners for their support as we strive to meet our goals, which align with those set out in federal and provincial plans, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving regional carbon neutrality.”

Last year, Metro Vancouver completed the Lulu Island Renewable Natural Gas Facility, which allows the plant to clean and store biogas — a byproduct of the liquid waste treatment process — for use in the provincial natural gas system.

The natural gas facility cleans the biogas so that it can be sold as renewable natural gas, which blends seamlessly into existing gas infrastructure, and helps reduce net greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional natural gas.

“The heat recovery system at the wastewater treatment plant on Lulu Island will transform waste into low-carbon renewable gas, which will increase the generation of clean energy in the area. The modernization of the facility through green technology is a prime example of how BC communities are leading the transition to a clean economy that leaves no one behind,” said Wilson Miao, MP for Richmond Centre.

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Metro Vancouver has an agreement in place to sell renewable natural gas produced at the Lulu Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to FortisBC, who will deliver the renewable natural gas to its customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and help meet provincial climate action targets. Revenue from renewable natural gas sales is reinvested into projects that support wastewater resource recovery.

“Pursuing innovative, renewable energy solutions is a goal that FortisBC shares with Metro Vancouver. Harnessing thermal energy from the Lulu Island facility for plant use while freeing up more renewable natural gas to help further reduce emissions from the gas system is a win-win scenario for the advancement of renewable energy in BC,” said Joe Mazza, vice president, Energy Supply and Resource Development, FortisBC.

(Twitter – @MetroVancouver)

The Lulu Island facility currently uses biogas as fuel to meet its indoor heating and plant process needs, with the excess gas being flared. The new sewage heat recovery project will allow the plant to meet its heating needs by recovering thermal energy from treated wastewater, meaning more biogas will be available for cleaning and sale to FortisBC. This project will free up enough renewable natural gas to power 600 homes, and together with the renewable natural gas facility, significantly reduce the need for flaring.

“Metro Vancouver is always looking for ways to make the most of the energy and resources in wastewater, including generating heat, electricity, and renewable natural gas,” said Richard Stewart, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Committee. “Not only are projects like these key to the strategies outlined in Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Liquid Waste and Resource Management Plan, they also benefit residents and businesses that can access this reliable, clean, and renewable source of energy.”

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The heat recovery project will also contribute to CleanBC’s goal to make natural gas consumption cleaner, with at least 15 per cent being renewable natural gas.

Work began in April 2021 and construction is expected to begin in 2023, with project completion slated for 2025. The estimated budget is $10 million, with $2.14 million coming from the Government of Canada and $1.78 million from the Province.

Featured image: (Metro Vancouver)

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