Alberta Facility Largest in Canada

Fri, 2014-01-03 (All day)

Canada’s largest anaerobic digester for turning manure and food processing waste into electricity has gone online in Lethbridge, Alberta. This state-of-the-art digester has the capacity to process more than 100,000 tonnes of organic waste on an annual basis – enough to fill more than 3,300 tanker trucks - and is capable today of producing 2.8 MW of electrical power - enough to power 2,800 homes. With the addition of new generating units in the future, the digester’s capacity could be as high as 4.2 MW.

While it may have taken more than 10 years and cost CAD$30 million to get the project from concept to completion, the Lethbridge Biogas Cogeneration digester is unique for several reasons. Firstly, the digester represents a unique partnership between private, provincial and municipal stakeholders; digesters are usually developed by the public or the private sector, not jointly. Secondly, the digester is privately owned; digesters of this size are usually developed by large municipalities or regional governments.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Lethbridge Biogas Cogeneration digester is expected to become the first anaerobic digester in Canada to incorporate a patented thermal hydrolysis pre-treatment technology approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This thermal hydrolysis technology will enable the Lethbridge Biogas Cogeneration digester to accept many types of food processing waste, such as slaughterhouse waste, that would otherwise be unsuitable for anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digester advocates have long promoted the economic, environmental and long-term societal benefits associated with anaerobic digestion technology. Generating electrical and thermal energy through anaerobic digestion of organic materials reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly, as manure is typically stored in open manure lagoons which allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, to freely escape into the atmosphere. In fact, it is estimated that the Lethbridge Biogas Cogeneration digester will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 224,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.

Other large and small-scale biogas projects are already operating in Canada. The Bakerview EcoDairy in Abbottsford, BC operates a digester that produces renewable electricity to feed into BC Hydro’s power grid. Supported by Cowpower, this farm is a model for other dairy farms in BC and Canada to follow.

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