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Final Thoughts: Filling a gap

New guideline from the Canadian Biogas Association outlines best practices for biogas projects


July 29, 2020
By Jennifer Green

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Jennifer Green, executive director of the Canadian Biogas Association.

The Canadian biogas industry has continued to grow due to supportive policies for RNG and increased regulations to reduce GHG emissions. The Canadian Biogas Association (CBA), the collective voice of the biogas industry in Canada, identified a gap in Canada compared to other jurisdictions for a supporting document that creates a clear outline of best practices for biogas projects to assist developers and stakeholders in the development of biogas projects.

The CBA developed an industry-led, national Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Guideline document following a global jurisdictional scan that found over 20 AD Guidelines or supporting documents in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. but no equivalent document for Canada. The AD Guideline provides recommended planning, design, and operational practices for AD facilities that process food and organic waste materials. The document aims to create a clear outline of best practices for biogas projects and assist developers and stakeholders with the regulatory process and remove barriers to support growth in the green economy.

Published in November 2019, the AD Guideline is the culmination of over a year of contributions from experts in the industry. In May 2018 the CBA board of directors identified the creation of an AD Guideline as a priority in order to advance improvements in environmental approvals for AD projects. It subsequently formed an AD Guideline Committee comprised of directors with diverse industry expertise to spearhead the initiative. In October 2018 the committee decided to leverage internal expertise to draft the document and initiate this priority initiative.

In January 2019 the initial draft document was completed, and stakeholder engagement began with an interactive AD Guideline Workshop on March 21, 2019 in Toronto with over 100 industry participants. Azura Associates contributed to the AD Guideline development by incorporating feedback and enhancing technical elements. Government feedback from across Canada was solicited in April and May of 2019 and CBA member feedback was collected in June 2019, resulting in the completion of the document.

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David Ellis of Azura Associates and CBA Member provided technical contribution, review, and editing of the AD Guideline.

“The Guideline, prepared by highly experienced members of the Canadian Biogas Association, brings together decades of practical, and real-world experience about how to design, build, and operate digesters. Every contributor to this book has ‘gotten their boots dirty,’ so to speak,” says Ellis. “This Guideline is a distillation of lessons learned over those years, most of them hard-earned and expensive. It’s the first-ever guideline for food and organic waste anaerobic digesters in Canada, and it was written so that future digester developers, owners, and operators can learn from the challenges of the past.”

The purpose of this AD Guideline is to assist stakeholders in the deployment of AD facilities in a manner that improves outcomes and ensures environmental sustainability. It includes recommended planning, siting, design, operational, and risk management practices for AD facilities that process food and organic waste. The AD Guideline applies to facilities across Canada that anaerobically digest food and organic waste materials – including new and existing municipal, commercial, and farm-based facilities. Landfill gas systems and anaerobic wastewater treatment processes are not specifically addressed in the Guideline. The AD Guideline is intended to be used by developers, operators, government entities, and any organization or individual with an interest in, or a role to play in, developing, siting, or operating AD facilities.

The CBA’s objectives in developing this Guideline are to:

  1. Create a clear outline of best practices for biogas projects.
  2. Assist developers and stakeholders with the regulatory process and remove barriers to support growth in the green economy.
  3. Inform proponents to minimize or prevent the exposure of any person, property, plant or animal life to adverse effects associated with the operation of food and organic waste AD facilities.
  4. Provide a reference document for the design, approval, and operation of safe and efficient AD facilities.

The main focus areas of the AD Guideline include: legislation, approvals and standards; planning and siting considerations; site design and operation considerations; commissioning and starting up an AD facility; operating an AD facility; odour prevention, control and treatment; contingency planning, safety, and “spill” response; communication; and monitoring, sampling and documentation.

If you wish to receive a copy of the Canadian AD Guideline, please contact the Canadian Biogas Association at jgreen@biogasassociaton.ca.


Jennifer Green is the executive director of the Canadian Biogas Association, a non-profit, member driven organization that helps to grow the biogas and renewable natural gas sector in Canada to its fullest potential.