Canada’s biogas industry celebrates successes at Value of Biogas East
April 27, 2023
By Maria Church
The Eastern Canada show saw a record attendance of more than 400 biogas industry members.
With encouraging policy incentivizing clean fuels, biogas and renewable natural gas (RNG) projects are taking off in North America and the industry is celebrating each one as a win for them all.
Many speakers at this week’s Value of Biogas East – put on by the Canadian Biogas Association (CBA) in Toronto – reiterated throughout the three-day event that momentum is as strong as it’s ever been to produce clean fuels.
In her opening remarks to the record 400-plus attendees, CBA executive director Jennifer Green said the industry is seeing things happening, “too fast, and not fast enough.” She echoed the sentiment a few times during sessions, elaborating that the pace of change in the industry is ramping up, with increasingly complex technologies and processes, but much more can and should be done to rapidly decarbonize Canada’s fuels sector.
Effective policy and regulations are integral components to the speed of the industry’s growth. Opening keynote speaker Jennifer Winter with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy outlined Canada’s policy trends as they affect methane. She noted both federal and provincial methane regulations are complicated and have very little uptake when it comes to the capture and use in agriculture and waste industries. “This is really unfortunate because methane is one of those short-term easy wins for Canada,” she said.
Winter noted emissions mitigation is a very active and complex policy space, and cautioned against advocating for new policy. Rather, she suggested regulatory and policy design could be improved to encourage methane capture and use.
During a discussion on financing, panelists agreed initial risk capital for biogas and RNG projects is difficult to come by. Alex Dunlop, an alternative fuels specialist with risk advisor and insurance broker Marsh Canada, said there is a shift in the industry from an agricultural mindset to an industrial mindset, but noted that industrial projects are less familiar to banks, “even if the technology is sound.”
Jonathan Cocker with Canadian law firm BLG said every successful biogas and RNG project is good news for the entire industry. “We’re peers, we’re not competitors yet. Maybe someday,” he said. “We want to see everyone succeed… projects are good for all of us.”
Speaking on a panel discussing the merging of the waste and energy industries through RNG, ComTech Energy’s James Ro noted that the biogas industry is complimentary to the hydrogen industry as well. “Everything we’re doing in the CNG [compressed natural gas] and RNG space is benefiting the hydrogen economy,” he said.
Based in Milton, Ont., ComTech Energy develops alternative fuelling infrastructure focused on CNG, RNG and hydrogen. Ro said his view on what’s holding back the RNG industry is lack of long-term demand that can only be created through government incentives. “I’ve never met a fleet that wants to go green and pay way more,” he said. But with consistent, policy-supported demand, all other obstacles to the industry – financing, supply chain, etc. – will fall into place. “That’s just capitalism,” Ro said.
Remarking on the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is packed with tax incentives to grow the domestic biofuels industry, Ro suggested Canadian RNG projects will continue to develop, but that U.S. incentives will likely see Canadian RNG suppliers exporting to the U.S. for a better price.
Also on the waste and energy panel, Scott Dodd, director of business development for Enbridge Gas, said the biogas industry should find its niche to make the best use of the current incentives in place for the long-term. “Do we wish we had [the IRA], yes. But we have to work with what we’ve got,” he said.
Enbridge has said it’s looking to procure five petajoules a year of RNG, which would amount to about one per cent of its natural gas supply. They hope to grow that to four per cent in the coming years by sourcing RNG from across North America. Enbridge has introduced a voluntary RNG program “OptUp” that allows customers to add $2 to their monthly bill that goes towards the purchase of RNG.
Biogas industry awards
The CBA announced its biogas industry awards during the conference, naming Walker RNG in Aylmer, Ont., as the project of the year. Developed by DLS Biogas, the project is wrapping construction soon and plans to produce 120,000 gigajoules of RNG a year.
Ricardo Hamdan, national sales manager, Canada, for Swiss cleantech company Hitachi Zosen Inova, was named this year’s biogas champion. In his acceptance remarks, Hamdan brought home the sense of unity within the Canadian industry, calling on attendees to reflect on their collective role trailblazing to advance biogas projects. “I started this journey 17 years ago. I came to Canada when there wasn’t a lot of movement,” he said. “The constant throughout the years has been trailblazing. Everyone in this room is a part of that… We should be proud of that,” he said.
“We are at a point now where industrial policy is being redrawn… decarbonization is here,” Hamdan said, adding that the next phase for the industry is to pull together to continue to grow.
“If not for all your voices, we wouldn’t be loud enough,” he said.
This article is part of Biofuels Week 2023. To read more articles on biofuels, click here.
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