Project to see farmers fuel up with methane

LONDON, Ont. — A bio-methane facility planned for Woodstock, Ont., will generate both electricity and fuel.

The project is to begin this year with the construction of a compressed natural gas fueling station, said Murray Logan, project manager with Faromor Energy Solution.

The next step is to build an anaerobic digestion system at a nearby farm to produce bio-methane. Union Gas has agreed to inject the methane into its natural gas distribution system.

Bio-methane is interchangeable with natural gas once the impurities are removed.

“This is a model for biogas production and rural development in Ontario,” Logan told the Growing the Margins conference March 3.

“We’re going to start by compressing natural gas. Two years later we’ll add injection capability for bio-methane. By blending it with natural gas, we can create a new fuel market for on-farm biogas generation.”

Five businesses, including three farms, are collaborating on the project with support from the federal and provincial governments through Growing Forward II.

The bio-methane is to be produced from the manure from two beef feedlots, which have a combined animal capacity of almost 3,000 head. Municipal waste from Oxford County or Woodstock may be used as well.

It will power a 250-megawatt generator, which will feed electricity to the grid. The latest offer for 100 to 250 megawatt systems from Ontario Power Generation through the Feed In Tariff program is 21 cents per kilowatt hour.

Surplus methane will be injected into Union Gas’s distribution system.

The cost of generating bio-methane is currently greater than the price of natural gas. A blended price will be offered at the fueling station, making the project feasible.

“By blending it with natural gas, we keep the litre price of the fuel down and we can create a new market for the biogas,” Logan said.

Logan said there are positive environmental implications for participating farmers and Union Gas.

Pathogens are removed from the manure and a more valuable, nutrient-rich material is generated for land application or bedding if the liquid is removed.

“De-carbonizing the gas system is going in the right direction, even though it’s a small part of the system,” said Ed Seaward, manager of market opportunity development at Union gas.

Plans call for up to 100 large-engine vehicles to be fueled at the station, including a “return-to-hub” fleet of milk trucks equipped with Cummins Westport natural gas engines.

There is also potential to fuel municipal buses and set up a portable fueling station system that could support the custom farm operator involved with the project.

Logan said farm tractors and other big equipment can be converted to run on natural gas. The up-front cost is considerable, but it’s recovered through lower fuel costs.

Stephanie Thornson of the Biogas Association in Ottawa said using bio-methane as vehicle fuel is the preferred option because of the high price of gasoline and diesel.

“The local economy benefits from biogas developments,” she said.

“Jobs are created and communities become more resilient.”

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