REN Energy will source waste wood from ATCO Wood Products and other forest companies to create Renewable Natural Gas in a new facility planned for Park Siding just outside of Fruitvale. (Townsman file photo)

Renewable Natural Gas facility targeted for small B.C. town

Once in a lifetime thing, it doesn’t happen in small communities very often, says Fruitvale mayor.

The West Kootenay Village of Fruitvale will be the site of a new state-of-the-art natural gas facility.

FortisBC is partnering with REN Energy International Corporation (REN Energy) to create Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from wood waste sourced from Fruitvale’s ATCO Wood Products and other Kootenay forestry companies.

“The Village of Fruitvale is beyond excited,” said Fruitvale mayor Steve Morissette. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing, it doesn’t happen in small communities very often. It will offer good paying jobs and there’ll be plant operators, process operators, and typically fork lift drivers, and wood managers.”

The proposed site for the facility is at the old Park Siding ATCO mill about 6 km from Fruitvale in southeastern BC. The project will offer about 18 months of construction jobs and, once construction is complete, the plant will employ 30-35 local workers.

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According to FortisBC Supply Manager Scott Gramm, Fortis will buy the gas generated by the facility and tap into its pipeline that runs near the Park Siding property.

“REN Energy chose that location because it was a source of wood waste and close to our pipeline at the same time,” said Gramm. “We’re talking like 300-metres from our transmission pipeline, it’s nice and close – so acceptable wood waste, acceptable pipeline.”

REN Energy is a global company whose goal is to reduce waste and improve the environment through the development of sustainable, clean fuel-based projects. REN seeks out opportunities to create partnerships with municipalities like Fruitvale and regional districts, forestry industry operators like ATCO, and financial partners like FortisBC to create essentially zero-emission energy products like RNG.

“The plant, the first of its kind in North America, will create an immediate annual economic impact in the Kootenay region,” said Philip Viggiani, president of REN Energy in a release. “As well, our future waste-to-energy project regions will carry similar economic impacts in regard to the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, significant in-community investments and, of course, the clean energy product we create.”

RNG is a carbon-neutral energy that is made from capturing the methane released from decomposing organic waste.

The project will make use of waste from forestry operations, sawmills and other wood product manufacturers and will speed up the natural process by creating syngas through gasification. The syngas is further converted to methane and then purified to meet natural gas line specifications.

The output is expected to be substantial, and FortisBC estimates over one million gigajoules of energy will be created annually from the facility.

“The average household uses about 90-ish,” explained Gramm. “So we’re talking enough gas to sustain 10,000 to 12,000 homes annually.”

The construction on the facility will begin in the fall, and is expected to be up and running in late 2021, early 2022, says Gramm.

Once operational, the technology will create a use for forestry waste in B.C. and unlock the potential for significant new volumes of RNG in the province.

“We are extremely pleased with our FortisBC agreement spanning 20 years, to provide RNG to our fellow B.C. customers,” said Viggiani. “REN Energy plans to be a major factor in assisting with the FortisBC mandate of creating carbon-neutral RNG.”

When economically feasible, REN Energy intends to benefit both the province and the forestry industry by cleaning up and processing brush piles, and thereby mitigate potential forest fires.

Furthermore, the REN facility will create a market for local forest companies in a time when they need it most.

“It will for sure help our forest industry,” said Morissette. “It will help ILMA – the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association – because they (REN) will be sourcing a lot of the waste wood from them.”

The ground-breaking project’s use of carbon-neutral energies is a crucial element of FortisBC’s 30BY30 target.

The goal is to reduce customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. FortisBC is also working towards having 15 per cent of its natural gas supply be renewable by 2030, which is in line with commitments outlined in the Province’s CleanBC promise 30-30.

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