It doesn’t stink – North America’s first closed-loop waste management system opens

March 11, 2018 |

In Canada, Surrey’s Biofuel Facility officially opened in the Port Kells industrial area in the British Columbia province. The $68 million facility is the first fully integrated closed-loop organic waste management system in North America. The facility converts curbside organic waste into renewable biofuel to fuel the City’s fleet of natural gas-powered waste collection and service vehicles. Under this closed loop system, waste collection trucks will literally be collecting their fuel source at curbside. Excess fuel will go to the new district energy system that heats and cools Surrey’s City Centre.

In fact, Surrey is the first municipality in North America to be running a 100% carbon neutral municipal waste collection fleet.

The Biofuel Facility will divert 115,000 tons of organic waste from the landfill, produce approximately 120,000 Gigajoules of renewable natural gas and produce approximately 45,000 tons of nutrient-rich compost annually. The City of Surrey collects 65,000 tons of organic waste per year but the processing capacity of the facility can meet a demand of 115,000 tons per year.

Surrey’s Sustainable Side

The city of Surrey has serious plans for sustainability and lowering GHG emissions. The Surrey Biofuel Facility is one way they are tackling greenhouse gas emissions as well as unwanted waste and limited landfills.

“Surrey has established a new sustainability benchmark in Canada with a state of the art facility that converts organic waste into renewable energy,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “The Biofuel Facility will be instrumental in reducing community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 49,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of taking over 10,000 cars off the road annually. This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will also completely eliminate the City of Surrey’s corporate carbon footprint of 17,000 tonnes per year.”

Not So Stinky for Trash

You’d think this would be a smelly project, with organic trash being delivered daily to the Biofuel Facility, but Surrey knows how to handle the stink.

The waste is treated exclusively “in-vessel” meaning that 100% of the organic waste is contained and processed inside the facility. Integrated within the Biofuel Facility is a state-of-the-art odor mitigation technology that treats the waste odors. The end result is that odors are entirely contained within the facility.

The facility uses a non-thermal anaerobic technology (AD) to process organic waste. The biogas that is naturally generated from this process is captured and upgraded onsite to create renewable natural gas (RNG), which is then injected directly into the local gas grid. The remaining organic matter is placed inside composting tunnels where nutrient-rich compost is produced. A portion of the compost produced will be used within the City’s parks and boulevards.

The facility was designed to meet future demand. Currently, the City of Surrey collects 65,000 tons of organic waste per year, processing 100% of the City’s curbside organic waste and is able to accommodate additional organic waste from other municipalities as well as the commercial sector. The processing capacity of the facility can meet a demand of 115,000 tons per year which the city fully expects to utilize by 2043. In the interim, the balance of organic waste will come from the commercial sector and other municipalities.

The 40 compressed natural gas (CNG) waste collection vehicles that operate in the city will collectively consume approximately 65,000 Gigajoules of the RNG annually. The remaining RNG will be used to fuel their growing number of CNG municipal fleet vehicles servicing the city as well as a number of municipal buildings including their district energy system.

Super Loopers to the Rescue

In order for a closed loop system to work, it isn’t easy and we all sometimes need a little help from our friends.

It begins with Surrey’s “Super Loopers” – what Surrey calls residents who divert and separate their organic waste from regular trash or recyclables headed for landfills or recycling plants.

While the Surrey Biofuel facility is owned by the city, it was established via a Public-Private Partnership. 25% of the cost of the facility was funded by the Government of Canada and the remaining 75% was funded by Renewi plc. Based in the UK, Renewi is responsible for the design and build of the facility and will operate and maintain the facility on behalf of the City for a 25-year period.

The facility is trying to make more friends and help educate the community about their project, with an Education Centre and an outdoor interpretive compost garden that will be used for conducting school and group tours. The City of Surrey and Renewi said in their press release that they are committed to using the facility to increase awareness of responsible waste management and the science behind composting, anaerobic digestion and the generation of biofuel.

The facility creates more than 15 new, full-time, long-term, and family supporting jobs to also help the Surrey community. And there is something for every resident in the City of Surrey too – this facility is being delivered without having to increase municipal taxes this year, staying at a steady $287 per household.

James Priestly, Managing Director, Municipal Division, Renewi plc, said, “This state-of-the art facility shows exactly how we’ve been able to use our international experience and innovation to create something unique. The facility brings our ‘waste no more’ vision to life and helps us to play a connecting role in the circular economy. It is this waste-to-product approach which we are very passionate about and I’m delighted to see it coming to life here, at this flagship facility in Surrey.”

Roger Dall’Antonia, president and CEO, FortisBC said, “As part of our commitment to innovation and supporting local and sustainable energy, FortisBC is pleased to work with the City of Surrey in bringing their new biofuel facility online. The facility adds tremendous value to the community and expands the market for Renewable Natural Gas. This benefits our customers, by providing them with a solution to be more environmentally conscious, as well as all British Columbians through lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Bottom Line

Seeing trash trucks running on trash they collected is a pretty neat thing, regardless of your climate change views or your hatred for stinky organic waste. The fact that Surrey has been able to do this – the first closed-loop waste management system in North America – is impressive and inspiring. The fact that they can do this without the odors is a nice bonus.

Closed-loop systems are amazing – they literally mean a system where the output is fed back into the system as an input in some way. That’s exactly what Surrey is doing with 40 trash trucks running on trash they have collected. So kudos to Surrey and their partners who made this project go from a dream to reality. It is definitely a project that doesn’t stink.

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