BioCycle March 2012, Vol. 53, No. 3, p. 20
Biogas Project To Save $12 Million
The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has entered into an agreement with Ameresco, Inc., an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, to design, build and maintain an innovative wastewater biogas-to-energy facility. The Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant (NEWPCP) Biogas Project will generate electricity and thermal energy for use onsite, fueled mainly by biogas from the treatment plant’s digesters. The $47.5 million construction project, designed to generate 5.6 MW of power, is expected to reduce PWD energy costs by more than $12 million over the course of the 16-year contract.
Currently, about half of the biogas generated from wastewater treatment is utilized for operations at the NEWPCP, while the other half is being flared. The Biogas Project will capture the portion being flared and convert it to electricity. “This project is an example of PWD’s commitment to develop waste recovery programs at all of our facilities as part of our pledge to be a sustainable and cost-conscious utility,” says Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug. “Recovering fuel in our wastewater treatment processes helps to diversify our energy portfolio, while improving the environment through innovative, green technology. The Northeast cogeneration facility demonstrates PWD’s national leadership in transforming the traditional wastewater plant into the resource recovery facility of the future.”
The partnership between Philadelphia and Ameresco qualified the project to obtain a $12 million Investment Tax Credit grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Bank of America Merrill Lynch will provide the financing through its Energy Services business unit. As part of the contract, Ameresco has developed an Economic Opportunity Plan guaranteeing green jobs within the community. While the initial deal is inked for 16 years, individual components have different life expectancies, explains Philadelphia Deputy Water Commissioner Chris Crocket. “For example, the building and piping system may last 50 to 100 years; the engines may last 20 years.” Crockett says the city and water department view the project as a long-term investment. “It creates the entire system to support optimum biogas utilization at our facility,” he says. “Sixteen years from now when new engine technologies are available or new air emissions are required, we have the framework already installed to plug in those pieces and keep the system going for a long time.” The mechanical/equipment completion of the project is scheduled for mid June with substantial build-out by mid September. Concludes Crockett: “This is one step of many future steps we hope to make toward making our wastewater facilities energy independent. Wastewater contains 10 times more energy than is used to treat it. We need to harness the power of the new black gold we have.”
Watervliet, New York
Curbside Food Waste Recycling AD Pilot
A pilot project at the Albany County, New York, South Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) will process solids from the treatment plant and food waste from the nearby city of Watervliet and Bimbo Bakeries USA using an anaerobic digester (AD) system provided at no cost by Spectrum BioEnergy. “Spectrum BioEnergy and Albany County Sewer District joined hands after seeing the gap in anaerobic digestion solutions among wastewater treatment plants and food processing entities in the state,” says Richard J. Lyons, executive director for the Albany County Sewer District.
Watervliet Mayer Mike Manning reports that a companion pilot project collecting organic residuals curbside from 50 single-family households (about 2 percent of the population) holds promise for full-scale expansion. “Residential separation and collection is going well,” says Manning, adding that some participating households are now reporting zero waste. Projections from the study so far indicate it would be quite feasible to divert at least half of the 100 tons/week of MSW generated by the city of 10,000 people, he adds.
The “proof-of-concept” AD pilot — which received financial support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — is scheduled to run between mid February and May. WWTP biosolids, along with food scraps, fats, oils and grease, is ground into a fine slurry with an Organic Waste Grinder manufactured by Garbel Products Company of Lockport, New York, before being fed into the digester. “The goal is to scale up to a larger digester to be put into the wastewater treatment facility,” says James M. Carbone, Jr., of Garbel.
Clean Energy Legislation Proposed
The Clean Energy Standard Act (CES ) of 2012 was introduced March 1 by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The 24-page document employs a straightforward, market-based approach that encourages a wide variety of electricity-generating technologies. It sets a national goal for clean energy and establishes a transparent framework that lets resources compete based on how clean they are, with the idea that the market and American ingenuity together will determine the best paths forward. Beginning in 2015, the CES would impose a requirement on the nation’s largest utilities to sell a percentage of electricity from clean energy sources, with incremental increases annually. The CES provides a stable, long-term market opportunity for the biogas industry — which recycles organic waste such as food scraps, wastewater and animal manure into clean energy through anaerobic digestion — to help utilities meet CES goals.
“The Clean Energy Standard recognizes the biogas industry’s significant role in using local resources to create clean energy from biogas,” said Patrick Serfass, the American Biogas Council’s executive director. “We thank Senator Bingaman for his determined leadership on clean energy and for introducing this bill.”
German Biogas Association Critical Of 2012 Renewable Law
Germany’s amended Renewable Energy Sources law (EEG 2012), which went into effect in January, will likely not jumpstart new biogas projects or capacity because it makes funding more difficult, the German Biogas Association told Platts, a global energy, materials and assessment provider. The association has more than 4,500 members and includes biogas producers, plant manufacturers and agricultural and industrial biogas plant operators. “In general, feed-in tariffs are lower than in the past, and some provisions make it more difficult to obtain credit,” said association spokeswoman Andrea Horbelt. “We assume that a lower number of plants will be built because of stricter conditions which hamper rather than promote capacity expansion.”
Impacts of the changes are expected to vary within the biogas sector. Beginning in 2012, biogas plant operators must meet certain criteria to qualify for feed-in incentives that are fixed for a 20-year period. The tariffs are usually well above the market price for power and the difference passed on to consumers in the form of a surcharge (energy-intensive users are typically exempt). Under the new rule, certain plant operators will forfeit the feed-in fee if they cannot demonstrate that at least 60 percent of waste heat from the engine generator has been utilized. This creates undo uncertainty and makes banks reluctant to provide loans, Horbelt told Platts. Under the previous system, biogas companies were certain of receiving a fixed feed-in fee and could claim extra bonuses for meeting additional criteria.
Medium-sized biogas plant projects will likely be most impacted by the combined effect of lower feed-in fees and tighter eligibility criteria, Horbelt added. By contrast, higher feed-in fees for small plants with a capacity of up to 75 kW could encourage growth in this sector that so far has attracted little investment because costs per installed kW have typically been higher than for larger plants. According to Platts, fees in this segment have risen to 25 euro cents/kWh (32 US cents/kWh) from around 22 euro cents/kWh.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
New AD Safety Standards
Developing a uniform code for digester gas and landfill gas installations in both the United States and Canada is the objective of a new, joint technical committee that met for the first time on November 3 in Madison, Wisconsin. “A single Canada/U.S. committee approach will ensure that there is a consistent rules development process for both countries,” says Tony Cautillo, project manager for Fuel Burning Equipment Standards with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). In Canada, the CSA code for digester gas and landfill gas installations has been published since 1977 (originally as Safety Regulation for Production, Storage and Utilization of Digester Gas in Wastewater Treatment Plants). In 2011, the code was published under the B149.6 designation for the first time as the B149.6-11 Code for Digester Gas and Landfill Gas Installations.
The CSA has been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a standards-writing body for appliances and accessories fueled by natural, liquefied petroleum and hydrogen gases. The standards are voluntary. The US/Canada ANSI/CSA B149.6 committee will follow procedures common to ANSI and the Standards Council of Canada, Cautillo says. “The new code would be harmonized for both Canada and the U.S. in a single CSA/ANSI document.” Currently, there are 10 Sections in B149.6-11 dedicated to the installation requirements, piping and tubing, digester and gas storage tanks, building services, testing, operation and maintenance, etc. The new edition will also include provisions specific for agricultural biomethane gas digesters.” All CSA Standards are reviewed on a five-year cycle, and updated as required. Because they are voluntary, “it is up to regulatory authorities to determine how they will apply them in whole or in part,” explains Cautillo. “Generally, CSA codes in Canada become adopted within a year after publication. In the U.S., the Code has been used as a reference on a voluntary basis and it’s expected it would continue that way.”
Hudson Valley, New York
Envisioning A Bright Future For AD
Joanna Underwood says that the organic waste exported by New York City to other states’ landfills at an annual cost of about $325 million could instead be used to power an estimated 10,000 municipal buses and fleet vehicles. Underwood is the founder of Energy Vision, a nonprofit whose mission is to “analyze and promote ways to make a swift transition to pollution-free renewable energy sources and to clean petroleum-free transportation fuels of the future.” The first step is to get municipal governments on board with converting fleets to cleaner fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG), Underwood suggests, noting there are sufficient reserves of natural gas obtainable by more traditional drilling methods (versus hydrofracking) to bridge transitions to renewable natural gas (RNG). Once municipal governments get on board with converting their fleets, their eyes may be opened to the potential of RNG — which they can produce by recycling their organic waste streams.
“Sustainability is running an economy or industry that doesn’t destroy resources and doesn’t produce toxic waste,” she says. “We need to devote our brain power to developing cleaner technologies for a new century.” Underwood headed up INFORM, a nonprofit chemical industry watchdog, for 30 years.