Amidst the foggy, fertile fields of British Columbia’s dairy country, George Dick has built an impressive $45-million biogas digester plant. With two enormous sealed tanks, the plant encourages bacterial activity by robbing them of oxygen, mimicking the conditions in a cow’s stomach. This process allows the bacteria to consume calories from cow manure and food waste, resulting in the production of methane gas. This methane is then captured, cleaned, compressed, and fed into the natural gas grid.
While biogas digesters, like Dick’s, are elegant solutions that reduce methane emissions and produce usable fuel, the implementation of such technology faces challenges. Dick received minimal financial assistance from the government, relying mostly on a small bank loan. Lenders were hesitant to invest in what they perceived as a risky venture.
This lack of investment is concerning because Canada has committed to reducing methane production by 30% by 2030, and agriculture is the largest contributor to methane emissions after the oil and gas sector. The dairy sector alone accounts for a significant portion of these emissions. The emissions from a single lactating dairy cow are equivalent to those of a mid-sized vehicle driven 20,000 kilometers.
Biogas digesters have the potential to address this issue by capturing methane emissions from cow manure and utilizing them as fuel for on-farm equipment or selling them to the natural gas grid. For example, Dick’s biogas plant combines 60 tonnes of manure with food waste to produce 180,000 gigajoules of biogas annually. Additionally, the solid manure left over is converted into organic pellets, providing Mr. Dick with another income stream.
However, despite the environmental and economic benefits, the cost of biogas digesters makes them difficult to finance. Shikha Jain, CEO of Green Energy Trading Corp., plans to build over 300 biogas digesters across Canada in the next 15 years. However, she faces challenges in securing financing, hindering the expansion of this technology.
The industry is not seeking government handouts but rather incentives, such as input tax credits and mature carbon credits, to make biogas digesters economically viable. Unfortunately, Canada has not included biogas and renewable natural gas projects in its recent $70-billion budget for investments in clean electricity and clean growth, putting the country at risk of losing out on the energy transition and the associated economic benefits.
As investment opportunities and companies flow south of the border, it is essential for Canada to take action and create an investment ecosystem to scale up biogas technology. Otherwise, the country could miss its emissions reduction targets and lose out on the opportunity to benefit from the energy transition.
What is a biogas digester?
A biogas digester is a system that harnesses methane gas produced through the breakdown of organic waste, such as manure and food waste, by bacteria in an oxygen-deprived environment. The captured methane is then used as a renewable energy source.
Why are biogas digesters important?
Biogas digesters help reduce methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. They also provide an opportunity to produce renewable energy and can help diversify income for farmers.
What challenges do biogas digesters face in Canada?
The main challenge is securing financing for biogas digester projects. Without relevant incentives and support from the government and financial institutions, it is difficult and risky for individuals and companies to invest in this technology.
What impact do biogas digesters have on greenhouse gas emissions?
Biogas digesters help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane produced from organic waste. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so capturing and utilizing it as fuel instead of allowing it to enter the atmosphere contributes to emissions reduction efforts.