According to TOL, population growth in the Township was 13% between the 2006 and 2011 census, the highest of any Metro Vancouver municipality, and 12.6% over the last census period (2011-2016). Local farm gate receipts total approximately $200 million per year and the Township is always looking for ways to increase farmers’ income and local prosperity (TOL, 2020). Aldergrove Star recently reported that the TransLink Mayors' Council approved the business case on the full link to downtown Langley City with a Skytrain station in the Township on 196 Street (Claxton, M., 2020). Along with rapid business and infrastructure growth, and a strong agriculture sector, the Township has also seen huge growth in the film industry in recent years, with over $40 million injected into the local economy by movie makers and television producers. The Township's awe-inspiring civic and recreational facilities, gorgeous housing and premier higher education institutions such as Trinity Western and Kwantlen Polytechnic are what make the district municipality such an attractive place to live.
Dillon Consulting Limited, 2015 reports that the Langley community continuously faces incidences of various types of waste being dumped illegally within the community. The majority of the waste was construction and demolition material, wood/pallet, other metal and organics/yard waste. Upon speaking with local sustainability professionals, it was learned that the problem of litter and illegal waste persists.
The neighbouring City of Surrey addressed similar problems as illegal dumping by building the Port Kells Biofuel facility in 2018 for $68 million CAD. It uses an anaerobic digestor to convert organic waste into renewable natural gas (RNG) and nutrient rich compost. RNG fuels the City’s garbage trucks and municipal fleet, that includes pick-up trucks which offer large-item pick up for residents 4 times a year for free (..the Township also does the large item pick-up program), and at a cost after the 4th time. The City produces 65,000 tons of organic waste as of 2018, is projected to produce 90,000 tons by 2043. The Biofuel Facility has a capacity to process 115,000 tonnes. There is no odour from the waste facility. Surrey won the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators’ 2018 CAMA Willis Award for Innovation, in the over 100,000 population category for its waste management system, among other prestigious awards. Though the region was originally paying a reported $117.94 per ton to dispose organic waste, dedicated facilities lowered it to a reported $55.11 per ton (Diakiw, K., 2012). It is estimated the Port Kells facility currently generates over 77,600 gigajoules of natural gas and over 45,000 tonnes of nutrient-rich compost. It helps to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas, especially from methane, by approx. 49,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 10,000 cars off the road annually. Methane is especially dangerous because it traps absorbs about 86 times more heat in 20 years than carbon dioxide (Stolark, J., 2017). 75% of land in the Township is dedicated to agriculture.
Business Model Proposal
The exact data for organic waste production is not available for the Township of Langley, and we estimate some of the figures using data from the City of Surrey for the purpose of envisioning TOL’s first Biofuel facility. Both municipalities have similar demographics, high growth rates, and strong educational attainment, with over 51% of Langley residents having some form of higher education, including many farmers. This is critical because there is education involved in getting community members to participate in the waste collection process. It is not necessary to receive higher education however to participate. It is an advantage that sustainability is a popular trend in Langley and a well-planned project could expect majority of the community’s support.
The Township has roughly one-fourth the population of Surrey, and this leads us to estimate a 28,750 tonne capacity for a potential facility in Langley. It would generate an estimated 34,333 gigajoules of natural gas, that is equal to 9,507,435 KWh/year of electricity production, ~1272 litres of fuel oil, ~880 litres of propane oil, or ~1320 litres of gasoline. These figures were generated using data from the local utility (FortisBC, 2020). It is not known if the Langley project would be more or less efficient in operation than the Surrey project. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are estimated equal to removing a few thousand cars off the road annually. The local climate can get below freezing in Winter, which can be a risk for natural gas pipelines and transporation of nat. gas and any local or regional utilities purchasing from the facility would need to take extra precautions (Rosenfeld, 2015).
In Surrey, a public + private partnership was necessary where City land was used and the facility was built and is managed by the private UK-based company Renewi for 25 years of operations. Costs were shared with 25% of funds coming from the federal government that reduce disposal fees paid by the City and 75% overall funding from Renewi (General Manager, Engineering, 2014). Sembcorp is another well-known company working in the waste-to-energy industry. A similar model would be ideal, with Township land being dedicated to the project and the construction and management contract being awarded through a competition. Considering it would be one fourth the size and capacity of the Surrey facility, and cost of land is lower in the Township than Surrey, inflation would not be that significant in Canada after only 2 years of the Port Kells facility, we estimate $17-21 million CAD funding as required the cost of this project. Pina, 2020 provides a biomass calculator for which the capital cost per annual ton in CAD, we arrive at ~$1,760,850. Operating costs as a percent of capital costs (8%) are $140,900. The Township would retain ownership of the gas and can sell to the local utility, FortisBC and buy back a portion for its potential natural-gas-powered fleet. The purpose of a facility in Langley would not only be to provide renewable natural gas at affordable rates for heating homes, but also aligns with the largest regional utility, FortisBC which strives to transition to renewable energy entirely for heating by 2050. Production cost per gigajoule is ~$4.10, that is considered very competitive across Canada. Fortis charges $9.4/gj for natural gas and $16.3/gj for renewable natural gas at profit. Converting this to residential gas $/kWh, it is $0.034 for natural gas currently and $0.059 for RNG with customers being enabled to request a blend at 5%, 10%, 25%, 50% and 100%. While there is $12.20 profit on every gigajoule of RNG sold, consumer data for the project is unknown. It is necessary to forecast yearly profits.
A biofuel facility provides health, environment and social benefits, and additional sustainability measures can be implemented to reduce any unintended environmental impacts further. This includes upgrading the biogas produced into biomethane for municipal-vehicle fuel and/or injecting into natural gas grids (Paolini et. al, 2018). The existing municipal fleet can also be converted from gasoline-powered to RNG-powered that is an inexpensive procedure. Township residents can be encouraged to convert their vehicle engines at low cost as well although RNG-powered vehicles do require servicing more often.
Additional data (from the Township) is required for accuracy. This includes specific type of agriculture yields, and how much agriculture waste farmers have left over in addition to the amount of total waste and proportion of organic waste that the Township produces. The Township has more farmland than Surrey, and a larger proportion of rural population. It may cost more for a fleet to collect waste from rural properties. These figures would help calculate the gigajoules of natural gas required for the fleet and emissions that would be generated by the expanded fleet. It would enable a more accurate estimate for the size of the fleet required to service the community. The amount of compost would help determine if the needs of the community can be met, and if the project needs to be scaled or when future facilities would be needed to be built according to population growth. Special attention is required in the education aspect that empowers local residents to participate in waste collection for Biofuel facilities to become the optimal solution for the threat of environmental degradation from excess landfill, rising costs of recycling, that a large agricultural sector, coupled with a rapid growing population and economy will eventually require.
Author: Jashan Singh Randhawa Image: invest.tol.ca
Bibliography Census Data: TOL/Census Canada
City of Surrey General Manager, Engineering. (2014) Award of RFP No. 5587 Surrey Biofuel Processing Facility Project. Corporate Report. Claxton, M. (Feb. 1, 2020) SkyTrain to Langley moves one step closer with business case. Aldergrove Star.
Diakiw, K. (2012) Get ready to Rethink your trash. Surrey-Now Leader.
Dillon Consulting Limited (2015) Litter and Illegal Waste Management Strategy. Township of Langley Engineering Division.
FortisBC. (2020) Gigajoules: how natural gas is measured. Facilities Operations and Energy Information. Paolini, V. (2018) Environmental impact of biogas: A short review of current knowledge. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A. 53(10).
Pina, R.S. (2020) Biomass Calculator. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health.
Rosenfeld, M.J. (2015) Cold Weather Can Play Havoc On Natural Gas Systems. Pipeline & Gas Journal. 242(1).
Stolark, J. (2017) Fact Sheet – Biogas: Converting Waste to Energy. Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).
TOL. (2020) Profile & Statistics. Invest TOL.
Date: February 10, 2020
Updated: July 12, 2020