May 11, 2020. Canadian utility company FortisBC will purchase wood waste-derived renewable natural gas (RNG) from REN Energy International through a new partnership.

The project features technology being used for the first time in the US and represents ‘exciting new opportunities’ to reduce emissions using British Columbia’s (BC) expansive forestry sector, according to FortisBC. The production facility will be owned and operated by REN Energy and situated near Fruitvale, BC.

RNG is typically made by capturing methane released from decomposing organic waste. This project will utilise waste from forestry operations, sawmills and other wood manufacturers and create RNG through gasification, rather than decomposition. The syngas produced in the process will be converted to methane before being purified to meet natural gas line specifications.

Once operational, the technology will create a use for forestry waste in BC and ‘unlock the potential for significant new volumes of RNG’ in BC, according to FortisBC.

“We are extremely pleased with our FortisBC agreement spanning 20 years, to provide RNG to our fellow BC customers,” said Philip Viggiani, president of REN Energy. “REN Energy plans to be a major factor in assisting with the FortisBC mandate of creating carbon-neutral RNG.

“The REN team has been working for the past several years to create the REN solution that creates RNG from wood waste. The plant, the first of its kind in North America, will create an immediate annual economic impact in the Kootenay region; our future waste-to-energy project regions will carry similar economic impacts in regard to the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, significant in-community investments and, of course, the clean energy product we create.”

Advancing carbon-neutral energies like RNG is a key element in FortisBC’s 30-by-30 target – the company’s goal to reduce customers’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. The firm is also working towards having 15% of its natural gas supply be renewable by 2030, in line with commitments outlined in the province’s CleanBC promise.

The project received regulatory approval from the British Columbia Utilities Commission last month and is expected to be in service in summer 2021. It is expected to produce over one million gigajoules (approximately 277,777 megawatt-hours) of RNG annually, which would make it the largest source of RNG in the province to date.