County of Stettler getting into nitty gritty of biogas operation

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  • Jun. 29, 2011 1:00 p.m.

ADAM JACKSON/Black Press

The County of Stettler is continuing to show its dedication to a clean environment with plans in the works to turn waste into energy.

The county is now in the final stages of a deal with Prairie BioGas Ltd. to turn its municipal solid waste into gas and char.

“We’ve been working on this concept since 2005 and we have received grants to do research on waste streams to identify the type of waste that enters the landfill,” said county CAO Tim Fox.

At its June 22 council meeting, the County of Stettler entered into a memorandum of understanding stating they will work with Prairie BioGas.

“The memorandum of understand is essentially just to go ahead and apply for a site that would be approved by Alberta Environment and move forward,” said Fox.

The county has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Town of Stettler stating that they will not participate in the project.

“They won’t be working with us on this project, but they have allowed us to use some of their land at the Stettler transfer site, which is where we feel is the best spot for the machinery,” said Fox. “I just don’t think they’re ready to go to that next step.”

“Hopefully at the end of the day it will turn out to be a useful project for the entire community.”

The sorting station located at the transfer site will employ two to three people and will separate different types of waste to be either turned into biogas or char.

Although the planning stages are nearly complete, the county is still waiting for approval from the Province of Alberta, as well as ATCO Electric to allow them to sell power back into the grid.

“We’re looking at about eight months until we can start construction, so nothing will be built until the new year,” said Fox. “A year from now for it to be fully complete would be a fair guess.”

With the use of Prairie BioGas’ Carbonizer, the county will be able to create gas and char from 75 to 80 per cent of the municipal solid waste collected.

“It’s huge, it’s significantly more than half that is reduced into char with the biogas process and depending on the quality, that char can be sold as well,” said Fox.

“Another really neat thing about it is that it’s a 10,000 ton a year unit, which is exactly what we’re producing,” said Fox.

The county is also looking at exploring the possibilities of a private-public partnership with Prairie BioGas.

“We’re definitely exploring that, I know that there is funding available under the Canadian Federation of Municipalities for P3s, so we want to explore that as well,” said Fox. “There are challenges in going into a private public as well, so we will have to look at the legalities of it.”

The profit made from the biogas operation will be split between Prairie BioGas and the County of Stettler.

“We want to structure it so that we see some of that,” said Fox.

“But our main objective is to reduce our waste from the landfill. It’s costing us a lot of money and our landfill is filling up,” said Fox. “If we can avoid building new landfills, it’s definitely a good thing.”

The total cost for the project is estimated at $70,000, with $55,000 coming from the County of Stettler’s general operating reserves as well as a regional partnership grant for $26,000.

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