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A Fish Farm Grows Thanks to Combined Heat & Power

Amid an endless horizon of irrigated cropland, in a hot, arid corner of south-western Alberta, you think it must be a mirage.

But no.

There it is: a thriving, large-scale, landlocked tropical fish farm.

Current Prairie Fisherman Corp. is owned and operated by father-son team Klaas and Justin Den Toom.

It wasn’t always a fish farm. The Den Tooms started out raising hogs on the site, in 2002. Then in 2008 they began farming tilapia and barramundi – native to Africa and Australia, they’re mild tasting, warm-water fish in demand by restaurants in Calgary and Vancouver.

After years of building trust and a roster of steady customers in the restaurant industry, the Den Tooms realized there was an opportunity to provide additional value to their customers. By growing and diversifying the farm yet again, they could put the fish waste to work as plant fertilizer: In addition to fish, the Den Tooms could provide restaurateurs with a reliable and familiar source of specialty vegetables, and attractively boost their bottom line at the same time.

The business model was good for both the farm and the Den Tooms’ long-time customers, but the challenges in execution mirrored those of every farmer. The biggest operational costs – namely the energy to power their operation and the cost of feed (in this farm’s case, CO2 to boost growth and yield) – were serious management concerns.

The planned greenhouse was 100,000 square-feet in size. It would need to be warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer, while the waste from the fish would have to be filtered for use on the plants. Each of these processes required power.

To make this ambitious venture cost-effective, the Den Tooms needed to accurately forecast and control their power, heating and cooling costs. Because the farm is located at the end of the power line, in a rural area prone to severe cold, wind and ice in the winter and blistering heat in the summer, they needed to ensure they could affordably grow plants year-round in this challenging environment without interruption. They also needed to budget the annual cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) necessary to support and accelerate the growth of the plants.

The Solution

When the Den Tooms were introduced to Tedom’s combined heat and power (CHP) or co-generation units, the way forward became clear.

There are many advantages to the Tedom CHP model, but the most significant was that complementary technologies could be added to make ‘quad’ generation technology: power, heating, cooling and food-grade CO2 recovery.

By installing three Tedom Cento T200 200kW units, the total quad-generation solution solved multiple costly issues for the farm at once. The units delivered power cheaply, because they run on natural gas and because there was no need to pay for additional power distribution or transportation. The waste heat produced would be a free source of warmth for the farm, but it could also cool air when put through an absorption chiller. Finally, because the units can capture the CO2 by-product of generating power, clean it of pollutants and put it to essential use in the greenhouse, it could improve crop yield by as much as one-third.

Return on Investment

The Den Tooms estimate that by eliminating the need to purchase CO2 alone, they’ll save as much as $150,000/year.

By powering their quad-generation solution with economical natural gas, “We’re now talking about a fuel source that is upwards of 85 per cent efficient,” says Justin Den Toom. “The results have been better than we’d even hoped.”

Today the Den Tooms’ have year-round, uninterrupted growing, unaffected by challenging exterior weather conditions. Energy and heating costs are controlled and predictable, while fish waste is filtered and used as fertilizer and excess C02 is captured and likewise “fed” to the plants.

Tedom units are an independent, cost-effective and reliable power source that’s specifically designed to run 24/7 at full power. With an average 20-year life-span, they’re designed to last too, which is a good thing:

In an ocean of farmland, the Current Prairie Fisherman Corp. aims to be the go-to supplier of tropical fish and vegetables to restauranteurs in western Canada, for a generation to come. With the help of their modified Tedom CHP units, the Den Tooms will make it so.

Landfill Biocover Comes to Alberta

Landfill Biocover Comes to Alberta

If you work in Landfill Waste Management, this is for you!

The Problem:

A large amount of organic material ends up in landfills. As it breaks down, it generates a combination of methane gas and carbon dioxide. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), 25 times more detrimental to the environment than carbon dioxide. In fact, 25% of all Canadian, human-generated CH4 emissions come from landfill sites, alone.

The LFG Solution:

The most common GHG mitigation strategy for landfill sites today ­­­­­is an Active Landfill Gas Energy (LFG) system. LFG’s are an effective but costly way to reduce GHG emissions. The process entails collecting, processing and treating the methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage, then either using it directly as electricity, or upgrading it to pipeline-grade gas where it’s sold as a fuel source to power vehicles or heat buildings.

While LFG systems work beautifully, they can be costly to build and maintain. As a result, such systems are often neither practical nor feasible for smaller landfill sites. What’s the alternative?

The Biocover Solution:

Biocover is a landfill top-cover that typically consists of diverse compost materials, mechanically/biologically treated waste, dewatered sewage sludge or yard waste. The biological material functions as a vast bio-filter for GHG’s. Biocover is basically a way to exploit the natural process of microbial methane oxidation through improving the landfill cover design.

Unlike LFG systems, Biocover is a passive, alternative landfill closure system that addresses infiltration issues while reducing GHG emissions at the same time. It’s technology that’s low tech, inexpensive, with low operational and maintenance costs, making it both ideal and easily applied to small landfill sites.

If that’s not enough, Landfill Biocover also has the potential to create offset emissions credits, effectively creating an additional revenue stream for Waste Management Facilities.

 

Leduc Biocover Pilot Project:

In partnership with the Government of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the Leduc and District Waste Management Authority, TetraTech, one of the world’s leading engineering consultancies, developed a landfill biocover pilot project in 2018, in Leduc, Alberta.

The results of the pilot were brilliant: from start to finish, the Leduc landfill site saw a remarkable 90% reduction in methane GHG emissions.

The criteria for biocover materials used in the Leduc project was that they had to be locally available, low cost, ensure sufficient water evaporation functionality and yield high methane oxidation. In the end, the primary biocovers chosen were topsoil and screened, organic waste compost that would otherwise be landfilled.­­­­­­­­­­

The Results:

The result of the TetraTech Biocover Landfill Pilot is the hat-trick win of landfill waste management environmental stewardship. The Biocover:

  • effectively diverted organic waste
  • created a use for a previously landfilled by-product, and
  • reduced fugitive GHG emissions in a measurable way.

And like every excellent salesperson might say: But wait! There’s more!

As part of this project, TetraTech also developed a protocol to quantify emissions reductions and create carbon credits in Alberta from these caps. What does this look like in practice?

  1. An industrial facility needs to meet it’s emissions reductions requirements
  2. The facility invests in an emission reduction project that produces carbon credits
  3. The facility receives carbon credits from its investment

The expectation is that the Alberta Climate Change Office will announce sometime in 2019 that this protocol has been accepted for development.  In this scenario, one carbon credit is the equivalent to one tonne of GHG emissions reductions. Landfill sites create the credits using the established protocol then sell them to industry to help meet emissions compliance regulations.

With Landfill Biocover in Alberta, Landfill Waste Management Facilities win, Industry wins and we all win when GHG emissions are reduced.

 

 

 

Climate Change – a political hot potato.

Climate Change Shouldn’t be Political

 

We take many things the government does for granted, regardless of the political party in power: Social services, education, emergency services, transportation infrastructure, waste management and clean water all happen reliably, no matter who’s leading.  Why can’t climate change mitigation and adaptation be on that list?

I’m over the politicization of climate change. It’s tiring, counterproductive and often embarrassing.  I realize that at both the provincial and federal levels, political parties are all doing their best to get elected; doing so on the back of climate change, however, is wrong.   We should be better than that.

While I’m not a big fan of California’s carbon market framework, I am in awe of the states’ commitment to climate change mitigation, and its ability to stay the course regardless of who’s in power.  Both Democratic and Republican leaders in California get “the environment” and both are committed to building the economy while reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Why can’t we do that in Canada?  Why can’t political leaders put the environment ahead of the party the way they do their commitment to provide emergency services?

The fact is that they can if they want to. We know this because they’ve done it in the past.  For proof we need only look to the Acid Rain Accord, signed by the US and Canada in 1991.

The Acid Rain Accord created the first Cap & Trade system in the world and was implemented to reduce SO2 emissions in the most cost-effective manner. It was signed by Richard Nixon and Brian Mulroney (a republican and conservative) and it’s been maintained by all subsequent federal governments in the USA and Canada since.  A price on SO2 emissions was set back in 1991 because the great lakes and forests were dying, public health was being impacted and buildings made of marble and limestone were corroding.

Bad things were happening so Governments acted to reduce SO2 emissions – and it worked! It worked because they created a stable emissions reduction market, but it mostly worked because those in power chose to make it work.

Why can’t the various political parties in Canada can’t choose to do something similar today? The environment is apolitical. All we seem to hear in Canada regarding carbon taxes, for instance, is that political parties are either for them or against them. With no middle ground, there’s not even a starting point for meaningful discussion.

My advice to Canada’s political parties is to find the middle ground. Your job is to do what’s best for the people of Canada and for the land we live on. Your priority should not be to do what’s best for your party, the federal or provincial treasury or  to get elected.

To all the elected officials in Canada I say stop fighting and start collaborating. Clearly, you can’t agree on the carbon tax, so agree on something else. Something fundamental to all of Canada and something that’s been proven to work, like developing a robust emissions reduction market that all governments can support.

Do that and you’ll provide industry with much-needed market certainty and stability, which will result in investment in technologies and projects that reduce GHG emissions. Do nothing, then nothing changes – and we know the status quo is unsustainable.  We have the experience required to build a world class emissions market. I urge our elected officials to act now.

Develop a results-oriented, market-based climate policy that respects:

  • Substantial investment of over a billion dollars already made in the sector
  • People who work in the oil, gas and power production sectors;
  • The fact that our natural resources are precious and should be valued;
  • The scientific evidence calling for corporations, investors, governments and individuals to reduce GHG emissions; and
  • The ability for markets to drive down emissions in the most cost-effective manner

In 2018 the value of global carbon markets was $82B USD[1].  Greenhouse Gas Emissions are the acid rain of this generation. Together, it’s not only possible to make Canada a leader in this expanding global market, but it’s the chance to positively impact the Canadian environment and people for generations to come.


[1] https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/29687/9781464812927.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y