Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. and U.S.-based food waste management company Divert Inc. have broken ground on their first joint project to be built under the terms of a US$1 billion infrastructure agreement announced earlier this year.
The two companies are investing approximately US$100 million in the first of what is expected to be several projects across the U.S. that will convert food waste into non-fossil fuel, renewable energy.
The first facility, for which a groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday afternoon, will be built in Longview, Washington and will be the first of its kind in the state. It will accept wasted food from retail food customers, agricultural food producers, industrial food manufacturers, restaurants and others and convert it into renewable natural gas, or RNG.
“When we started looking at who we wanted to partner with in this space, Divert really stood out because they have kind of mastered … diverting wasted food,” said Caitlin Tessin, vice-president of strategy and market innovation for Enbridge.
“The fact that it doesn’t just go into a landfill really attracted us to the Divert partnership because it’s not just about decarbonized gas _ there’s a really strong social and community benefit to what they’re doing,” Tessin added.
Enbridge, which bought a 10 per cent stake in Divert earlier this year for US$80 million, is one of a number of traditional fossil fuel companies that have been investing in RNG as concerns about climate change intensify.
According to the World Biogas Association, organic waste from food production, food waste, farming, landfill and wastewater treatment are responsible for about 25 per cent of human-caused global emissions of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
But it’s possible to harness the methane from organic waste to create an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional natural gas that can be used for home heating, cooking, and even fuelling vehicles.
Divert — which uses a patented “depackaging” process and anaerobic digestion technology in its facilities — already operates 10 sites across the U.S., working with nearly 5,400 retail stores to process more than 2.3 billion pounds of wasted food annually.
Enbridge will help to finance the Longview facility, and will transport the fuel produced there to customers in the Washington area via Enbridge’s already existing natural gas pipeline network.
“RNG is a drop-in fuel replacement for traditional gas,” Tessin said, adding replacing traditional gas with RNG helps to lower Enbridge’s overall carbon footprint.
“It (allows us) to utilize the billions of dollars of infrastructure we already have.”
The Longview facility is expected to be fully operational in 2024. Enbridge says it will be able to offset up to 23,000 metric tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent to removing 5,000 gas-powered cars from the road annually.
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