Saturday, January 22, 2011
Chatsworth/Georgian Bluffs Biodigester
The biodigester, owned and operated jointly by the Municipalities of Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs is now up and running. I think it is very important that local residents have a good picture of the hows and whys of this project, so I went to se it for myself, and I have had very helpful conversations with Rick Winters, the Operations Manager for Georgian Bluffs. This Biodigester is the first in Ontario to be owned by a Municipality and is designed to convert septage, holding tank waste, and various commercial organic waste products to energy and a residual consisting of high quality fertilizer. It will potentially create a "new normal" for the handling of such wastes in Ontario.
As you may know, the Province of Ontario proposed a ban on the spreading of untreated sewage and septage waste directly on the land, but this regulation has not been enacted because there were insufficient facilities in existence to process the septage in a way which is economically and technically proven, until now. The details of the operation of the Chatsworth/Georgian Bluffs Biodigester , as it goes through its start-up, will no doubt be watched carefully by waste handling corporations and by Municipal authorities all across Ontario and beyond.
A bit of background information is in order. The facility is located alongside the existing sewage lagoon near Keady, where the holding tank waste from Sunset Strip west of Owen Sound has been treated since the mid 1970’s. The existing lagoon provides an emergency back-up in case of system difficulties. It is important to remember that it is a "living system" consisting of a variety of microorganisms which need to be fed constantly and consistently given the complex array of "food sources”. Its operation is not completely predictable, especially during the early trials. The smooth operation of the biodigester will reduce odours at the site because raw materials will no longer be going directly into the lagoon. (Odours were most noticeable when fresh raw material was introduced into the lagoon, causing agitation in the aeration cells of the lagoon.
The funding of the project is a story in itself. After numerous attempts by the Municipalities to obtain funding for the project, $1.67 million was provided from the Build Canada Fund Intake 2 in 2009 (half Federal, half Provincial money). In addition, the Municipalities have put in about $1.2million each for a total capital cost of $4.01 million. The budget calculations allow for $189,000 per year for operating costs. It is predicted that the loans taken by the Municipalities will be repaid in 10 years. In the budget it is anticipated that about 16% of the income will come from the sale of electricity generated (the methane produced by digestion of the organic waste fuels the stationary engine which turns the generator, which produces the electricity which is sold to Hydro One at 16cents per Kwh.) The bulk of the revenue will come from tipping fees. These are already being collected from businesses which need to properly dispose of waste fats and other food processing wastes. Down the road, tipping fees will be collected by septic tank pumpers, and will be passed on to the Municipalities. (The action taken by the Provincial Government regarding septage disposal will obviously have an impact on this revenue stream.)
Further down the road, there are possibilities for increased income. After the project is through its trialing stage, and the chemical composition testing has been done, the project management team is optimistic that the end product will be of high enough quality to be sold as an organic fertilizer, thus adding an additional revenue stream. Also, when the production capability of the biodigester is better understood, it may be economic to increase the size of the generator and sell more power to Hydro One. (The transmission line would require upgrading for three phase power at this point.) I for one would like to see the Municipalities make the case to Hydro One that green power from a biodigester, such as this one, could be utilized to meet peak power demands, and thus should command a much higher price per Kwh than paid under the present contract.
If any reader would like more information about the Chatsworth/Georgian Bluffs Biodigester give me a call at my home phone number. Also, be on the lookout for further updates at this site, and watch the local papers for notice of the Biodigester Open House/Grand Opening in the spring of 2011.
Many thanks to Rick Winters for providing up to date technical and financial information.
Bill Celhoffer GABP Director