Renewable Natural Gas: Canada’s Production Potential is Growing

By | 2017-11-07

Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a powerful key to effectively fight against climate change. It can emit up to 85% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil fuels.

RNG, as known as biomethane or BioNGV when used as fuel, is produced by the transformation of fermentable organic materials from various sectors (agricultural, industrial, household waste, etc.). Produced biogas from this anaerobic digestion process can be used for heating and power. By upgrading the quality to that of natural gas, it becomes possible to distribute the gas to customers via the existing gas grid.

Government of Canada invests in renewable natural gas

In Canada, RNG produced from residual materials as a means to reduce carbon emissions is generating growing interest.

In March, 2017, the Government of Canada announced its intention to invest in the production of renewable natural gas. Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources has announced an $800,000 investment in G4 Insights Inc. “for the development of technology to convert forestry waste into RNG that can be distributed through existing natural gas pipelines in Canada.”

Renewable Natural Gas Technology Roadmap for Canada

CanmetÉNERGIE, with participation from leading RNG experts from across Canada, created a RNG Technology Roadmap. The report sets out the current status of the RNG market in Canada. It sets out an action plan and a vision of establishing a viable RNG sector in Canada and explores pathways to achieving the vision.

Getting RNG into the grid is proving difficult. According to the report, initial costs are higher than established incumbents, markets are uncertain and the way forward is not clearly defined.

“Currently, renewable natural gas is not recognized and should RNG be recognized, its interchangeability with natural gas would allow the industry to become a major adopter and driver for RNG facilities in Canada.”

Vision for RNG in Canada

The report points out that the RNG industry is committed and will work collectively towards achieving the RNG Roadmap vision, that is: “By 2020, Canada has a fully developed RNG marketplace that meets the energy needs of Canadians, supports growth and innovation for business, and offers a solution to issues associated with waste and emissions.”

To achieve this vision, this technology roadmap makes the following recommendations:

  • Introduce policy tools to incent the market
  • Collaborate and invest in technology solutions
  • Provide education/awareness to key stakeholders
  • Establish necessary rules and standards between utilities and producers
  • Determine green attributes and encourage waste diversion policies to support RNG
  • Explore the use of Renewable natural gas for vehicles

Canada’s RNG Production Potential

Over the past 25 years, significant investments have been made by governments and industry in developing and producing energy from renewable sources. However, targeted efforts are lacking for the exploitation of renewable energy despite the potential of the RNG in Canada.

According to the 2010 Alberta Innovates Technology Futures study “Potential Production of Methane from Canadian Wastes”, the Canadian potential estimated to 1300 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year. The potential is slightly over half the current annual consumption of gas (2500 bcf/ year) in Canada.

The report highlights that the use of gasification has the potential to produce most of the RNG in Canada (84% of the total) while anaerobic digestion can produce 16% of the total.

Regarding the Canadian RNG market development, the largest potential is in British Columbia, in Ontario and Quebec primarily due to their large biomass resource base.

Canada’s renewable natural gas Production Potential

Canadian RNG projects

The report notes that the number of projects in operation remains limited despite the potential for production of RNG in Canada. There is a lack of awareness and higher initial costs associated with the early phase of RNG development in Canada.

Some Canadian gas companies, such as Fortis BC, already distribute renewable natural gas to their customers. Other companies have applied for permission to integrate GNR into their distribution system.

In British Columbia, Fraser Valley Biogas in Abbotsford combines anaerobic digestion and a biogas upgrading plant to produce RNG primarily from on-farm agricultural waste.

In Quebec, the Berthierville project was the first to begin operation in Canada and is currently injecting RNG into the Trans-Quebec Maritime (TQM) pipeline.

Quebec’s largest natural gas distributor, Gaz Métro has installed the first liquefied refueling station in Canada for heavy-duty vehicles at Rivière-du-Loup. The station receives fuel from purified biogas produced by local landfill sites and the Rivière-du-Loup biogas plant. The annual production of liquefied biomethane at the Rivière-du-Loup plant is estimated at 3 million m3, which will lead to savings in GHG emissions of more than 7,000 tonnes. Under the agreement, Gaz Métro will purchase up to 13 million cubic meters of renewable natural gas per year for a 20year period.

Several municipalities and private companies in Canada are also considering using renewable natural gas as a vehicle fuel (NGV). For example, since 2014, the City of Surrey in British Columbia has used biomethane produced from municipal waste as fuel for its garbage trucks. Since 2013, EBI, a Quebec-based private waste collection company, has been providing the public with a network of public refueling stations using renewable compressed natural gas and using biomethane for 45 trucks.

List of Canadian RNG Projects

For more information about the Renewable Natural Gas Technology Roadmap,

Canada’s Renewable Natural Gas Opportunity and Challenges to Meeting Market Potential, read the document Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Technology Roadmap for Canada.

To know more about RNG Developments in Ontario, read the document Renewable Natural Gas Developments in Ontario: An Evolving Outlook.