Town of St. Paul ‘waste to value-added’ initiative
During the past few decades, it has become increasingly clear that waste to valued-added (or ‘waste-to-energy’) facilities must be looked at as being cornerstones of any efficient waste management system and a means to securing energy supplies for the future.
A waste to value-added facility has the potential of generating a range of outputs: electricity, district/local/regional heating, recovered ferrous materials, digestate (which can be used as fertilizer in the agricultural sector), etc. In this way, residual waste that cannot be recycled in an economically or environmentally beneficial way becomes a valuable source of energy as well as a potential source of revenue.
Moreover, feasibility studies are consistently beginning to demonstrate that most waste to value-added facilities will outperform alternative waste treatment processes in terms of their reduced carbon footprint and other mitigated impacts on the surrounding environment, as well as having the potential of being eligible for (in this case) Alberta GHG offset credits.
The St. Paul Region in northeastern Alberta is made up of six rural municipalities including the Town of St. Paul, Town of Bonnyville, Town of Cold Lake, Lac la Biche County, Town of Elk Point and County of St. Paul No. 19. The region generates approximately 50,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) on an annual basis and currently has a total of eight small landfill sites.
In recent years, the collection of MSW and landfilling costs have escalated and currently the landfill tipping fees are at about $150/tonne. That is one of the main reasons why this region is now considering the development of a waste to value-added facility, which would lead to advantageous synergies between the various municipal partners as well as resulting in several positive financial and environmental outcomes.
The Town of St. Paul and its municipal partners are thus seeking to become regional, and provincial, leaders in the recovery of MSWs and transforming them into a form of renewable energy on the road to a landfill-free Alberta (the target date that has been set by the province for this goal is 2050).
The feasibility study being proposed by St. Paul and its regional partners for a waste to value-added facility will include the following components:
- Understanding the quantity, ownership, and composition of the regional waste stream (waste characterization study);
- Assessing current available technologies for an organics conversion facility based on anticipated conditions;
- Examining a suitable governance model for the facility and the local uses of energy generated from the recovered wastes and
- Conducting a pre-FEED study (Front End Engineering Study).
The expected outcome of the feasibility study will be the ability to make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with the financing and construction of a waste to value-added facility as outlined in the pre-FEED study.
The diagram bellow illustrates one possible configuration for a waste to value-added facility:
As is indicated above, the technologies that could potentially be used to process the incoming waste stream as well as agricultural/forest biomass include: 1) waste separation; 2) biological treatment for wet organic waste, including food waste, yard waste and wet/soiled papers, and 3) thermal treatment for dry organic waste, including dry paper, plastics, waste wood and textiles.
The environmental outcomes and benefits expected to be derived from this initiative are:
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs);
- Reduction of the communities’ carbon footprints;
- Demonstration to other rural communities concerning the feasibility of working together towards a landfill-free Alberta;
- Production of energy for municipal buildings and vehicle fleets;
- Reduction of energy consumption by municipal buildings, and
- Less fuel consumed and fewer kilometres travelled by vehicles for waste disposal purposes.
Applications for the funding of a feasibility study for this innovative waste to value-added project are at the present time being considered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (Green Municipal Fund) as well as Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES).