A trash collector making his daily rounds. Calgary-based VDQ-NRG hopes to build a plant in Sooke and take household waste and produce biofuels. (File - Black Press Media)

A trash collector making his daily rounds. Calgary-based VDQ-NRG hopes to build a plant in Sooke and take household waste and produce biofuels. (File - Black Press Media)

Sooke eyed for new $55-million biofuels plant

Calgary-based company plans to convert garbage to energy

Biofuels from household waste could soon be produced in Sooke with a new multi-million-dollar facility proposed by a Calgary-based energy company.

VDQ-NRG introduced its $55-million proposal to Sooke council on Monday.

Although the company doesn’t have a plant in operation yet, it is looking at 15 properties worldwide to begin production, said James Kernaghan, vice-president of strategy for VDQ-NRG.

The company uses two technologies to convert garbage to energy. Electro-depolymerization converts waste plastics into pyro crude oil, while hydrothermal liquefaction, a continuous thermal-chemical process, breaks down and liquefies organic materials.

READ: CRD, Emterra hire more trucks, crews as Greater Victoria recycling piles up

“The basic concept of our business is that humans produce garbage and we need energy. It seems like a pretty happy circular economy,” Kernaghan said.

Council members appeared enthusiastic about the project.

“This seems like a very science-fiction magic bullet,” said Coun. Jeff Bateman.

How It Works

VDQ-NRG’s plant would send municipal waste to Sooke rather than the Hartland landfill in Saanich. In Sooke, the garbage is sorted into different categories, depending on how it can be used commercially.

The waste is turned into energy using thermochemical processes, with no need to reduce the moisture content of the trash.

The process integrates several technologies, including hydrothermal liquefaction and electro-depolymerization. End products include high-grade distillate, syngas, bio-crude oil, carbon black and other by-products. Water can be reclaimed and utilized as necessary.

Kernaghan said VDQ-NRG is not expecting to process all the waste sent to the Hartland landfill, only waste generated in the Sooke area – about 40,000 tonnes per year. As usual, garbage collection would happen, with trash collectors paying a tipping fee to VDQ-NRG.

Because of the technology used, there would be minimal impact on Sooke’s air quality, Kernaghan said. “We are not an incinerator. We do not burn garbage. As a result, there are no emissions from the plant. The biggest emitters on site are the garbage trucks.”

‘A Circular Economy’

VDQ-NRG is interested in creating a “circular economy solution” to reusing waste in Greater Victoria. Circular economies are built on the idea that instead of a material being used once and then discarded, it gets reused.

“We can take about 90 per cent of what normally goes into a landfill,” Kernaghan said. “What we can’t use is glass, ceramic, dirt, rocks, gypsum rock, asbestos, anything mineral-based.”

Cost and Opportunities

VDQ-NRG was approached 10 weeks ago by the district, which is looking to reduce the community’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time increasing investment and job creation.

Kernaghan anticipates 35 full-time jobs would be created by VDQ-NRG, with an average salary of $80,000 per year.

The plan includes entering a revenue-sharing agreement where Sooke would receive a portion of the facility’s profits. Any agreement between the district and company will be based on the results of a feasibility study.

“The financial models have to make sense in a community,” Kernaghan said. “Long term, we are going to share some of the revenue with the community. We don’t ever want to be a burden in a community.”

The Sooke plant would take as much space as a Wal-Mart store.

VDQ-NRG has approached local property owners about the acquisition of land.

Company officials plan to visit Sooke in March to begin negotiations with the district. The project will still need to go through a formal application and regulatory process.

Kernaghan said construction could begin this year.

READ: Ocean Cleanup makes first dent in eradicating Great Pacific Garbage Patch



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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