The Village of Fruitvale’s much anticipated renewable natural gas (RNG) facility will start construction in the spring.
In May, FortisBC announced that it was teaming up with Kelowna company REN Energy International Corp (REN Energy) and that construction on the facility was expected to begin in the fall of 2020. Although, that did not happen, Phillip Viggiani, president and CEO of REN, assured the Trail Times that the start up would begin early in 2021.
“Construction, all things being equal, will start in the spring breaking ground,” said Viggiani. “It will be up some time between February and May of 2022. We don’t have an exact date, but we are on track.”
Earlier this week, REN Energy announced that it was partnering with Thermo Design Engineering Ltd. (TDE) to build the plant at nearby Park Siding.
The RNG facitlity will employ innovative new technology using waste wood sourced from local companies, like Fruitvale’s ATCO Wood Products, to create natural gas.
The new partner, TDE, will make it a reality.
“Our priority has been focused on pioneering sustainable projects, and so we are very excited to partner with REN Energy to bring innovation to the RNG market,” says Sean Montgomery, President of Thermo Design Engineering. “Working alongside our partners, we are creating jobs and boosting the Canadian green energy economy through cutting-edge technology.”
TDE is a world class engineering-construction procurement company based in western Canada and will oversee the construction of the RNG project until its completion in 2022.
“Having them involved right now is critical,” said Viggiani. “To be able to have that partnership, it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal.
“Working with an innovative partner like Thermo Design helps bring excellence in engineering and design to this essential green energy project.”
The gasification process developed by REN Energy is environmentally sound and will undoubtedly bring an immediate economic benefit to the Kootenay region and beyond.
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.
“The way we put it together is highly unique, and process driven. We’re pretty excited about it,” said Viaggini.
“It’ll be the first of its kind not only in North America but certainly B.C. We’re going to be generating over three times what the total is for all of B.C., so that’s exciting for us.”
According to Viggiani, the project will create about 18 months of construction jobs, and once construction is complete, the facility will employ about 30 local workers, and create 80-90 indirect jobs.
Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette said he is excited about the project, and is not worried about the delayed start up.
“It’s behind of course as big projects go. They were talking about digging in December but they’re not close to that. They’re optimistically hoping in the spring. But it is going to go.
“It’s a Fortis project that is being built by REN Energy, and Fortis is committed to reducing its carbon footprint so that’s why they’re doing this, and they are talking about another one in Midway as well.”
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 will be substantial, and FortisBC estimated over one million gigajoules of energy will be created annually from the facility.
Within two years, Viaggini says REN Energy intends to benefit both the province and the forestry industry by cleaning up and processing brush piles, and, as a result, mitigate potential forest fires.
“That’s really the Sunday punch. With us, it’s kind of like, ‘If you build it they will come.’”
REN will work with provincial and local governments and the forestry industry to remove residual brush from the lumber yards and forests, and reprocess it into RNG.
“It’s great for forestry, great for the people, and great for mitigating forest fires, by removing all that stuff on the ground.”
REN Energy will own and operate the facility while energy company, FortisBC, will oversee its interconnection facility on the site that will connect the project to the FortisBC natural gas transmission system.
The ‘REN Solution’ is inherently clean and safe because the production system is fully enclosed and the process uses 100 per cent of the solids, liquids and gases produced.
In addition, the REN facility will create a market for local forest companies in a time when they need it most.
“Between the people in the municipalities, the regional district, the other provincial politicians, and the interior lumber companies that will be part of our team down the road, everyone has given us such awesome feedback because this thing is such a big deal, because this thing is closed loop, which means there is zero emissions,” said Viggiani.
“The beauty of this is that there is no environmental impact except a positive environmental impact, and I just want to thank the whole community because they’ve been so supportive so far.”
The ground-breaking project’s use of carbon-neutral energies is a crucial element of FortisBC’s 30BY30 target.