Swift Cur­rent takes first step in con­struct­ing gasi­fi­ca­tion fa­cil­ity

The Southwest Booster - - Opinion - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

With mar­kets shrink­ing for re­cy­cled prod­ucts, the City of Swift Cur­rent is tak­ing the first step to­wards build­ing a fa­cil­ity that would in part turn re­cy­cled newspaper and card­board into elec­tric­ity.

At a spe­cial noon coun­cil meet­ing on Au­gust 7, coun­cil unan­i­mously passed a mo­tion to en­ter into a Fed­eral Fund­ing Agree­ment un­der the Low Car­bon Econ­omy Fund which would cover 40 per cent of the gasi­fi­ca­tion project. The re­new­able en­ergy and heat pro­duced by the project would help re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 5,500 tonnes of C02 equiv­a­lent an­nu­ally.

The fund­ing agree­ment re­quires a project com­ple­tion date of March 31, 2022, so coun­cil will be com­ing for­ward with bud­getary costs in the 2020 and 2021 City bud­gets.

Mitch Minken, City of Swift Cur­rent Gen­eral Man­ager of In­fra­struc­ture and Op­er­a­tions, said this project has been on the draw­ing board for a num­ber of years, dat­ing back to a 2016 high-level eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity study con­ducted by the Saskatchew­an Re­search Coun­cil.

“At that time we were re­ally strug­gling with what to do with our card­board and pa­per re­cy­clables. We had the Re­cy­cle Cen­tre still go­ing at that time, but at that time we had no mar­ket at all. So it seemed pru­dent at that time even though we were able to change things around and ac­tu­ally find some mar­ket for our ma­te­ri­als, that we start to look at what we were go­ing to do with these ma­te­ri­als into the fu­ture.”

And while that study ex­plored the fea­si­bil­ity, eco­nom­ics, and a de­ter­mi­na­tion if there is enough re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als to run the op­er­a­tion, Coun­cil is mov­ing for­ward af­ter re­ceiv­ing fund­ing through a Green En­ergy Grant pro­gram.

“At this time we are work­ing to com­plete that agree­ment with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. This is the first step that coun­cil has taken to­wards agree­ing to work with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to meet the re­quire­ments of this agree­ment. From there we will be work­ing into more en­gi­neer­ing de­tail as we go for­ward as to the ac­tual costs and how that all will work into the fu­ture.”

Ad­mit­tedly, and fund­ing agree­ment is the first step of a longer process. The City is now ex­plor­ing ten­ta­tive lo­ca­tions and work­ing on the ini­tial de­sign phase of the project.

“We have to con­tinue our dili­gence and move through the en­gi­neer­ing pieces. And if at some point some­thing changes and changes the as­sump­tions that we have to­day then we’ll have to look at it. But at this point it’s very pos­i­tive,” Minken said.

Gasi­fi­ca­tion as a small scale elec­tric­ity pro­duc­ing tech­nol­ogy is not new, but this proven tech­nol­ogy is rel­a­tively new in Canada. Minken is aware of a se­ries of units op­er­at­ing in the United States, but is not aware of sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions in Canada.

“The unit it­self is look­ing to pro­duce around one megawatt of elec­tric­ity so it’s not a huge unit. Con­vert­ing I think about 6,000 tonnes of ma­te­rial a year into gas. There is no emis­sion from the gasi­fi­ca­tion unit at all. It’s all done in an en­closed sys­tem, so there is no emis­sions. It’s done un­der heat and then con­verts the ma­te­rial into gas and a small byprod­uct called biochar, which is an in­ert prod­uct that can be used ac­tu­ally as a soil amend­ment, so sort of as a fer­til­izer or used in our fu­ture com­post­ing op­er­a­tions.”

The prepa­ra­tion work for the project is also ex­plor­ing the guar­an­tee of a re­cy­clable ma­te­rial stream to use for the fa­cil­ity.

“We’re work­ing to se­cure that and cer­tainly there is plenty of ma­te­rial around. It might not be just our ma­te­rial, but there is other ma­te­rial that we would be able to se­cure be­fore we would be able to move for­ward.”

“At this point, once we get the agree­ment done, we’re not com­mit­ted at this point to ac­tu­ally do the con­struc­tion. So we will have more de­ci­sion points as we move for­ward.”

Coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Bowditch said he was ex­cited by the prospect of this project.

“It’s some­thing that I’ve been kind of keep­ing my fin­gers crossed for a num­ber of years that we could be con­sid­ered for a project such as this. This is very ex­cit­ing. It’s nice to be a leader within the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Canada, not just Saskatchew­an.”

Coun­cil­lor Ryan Plewis added that re­cy­cling has been a top of mind is­sue for Coun­cil for a num­ber of years.

“We’ve talked about these sorts of is­sues for a num­ber of years. I know the pub­lic has talked about these is­sues for a num­ber of years. And we’ve cer­tainly had some chal­lenges in terms of re­cy­cling of card­board, and every­body has chal­lenges whether you’re in Saskatchew­an or right across Canada with land­fill man­age­ment and solid waste man­age­ment. Land­fills are very ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate. Ob­vi­ously the less that we can put in there and the more that we can find other uses for, the longer that we have for life ex­pectancy in this sort of fa­cil­i­ties.”

“We want to do try to do the most ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive thing pos­si­ble. We want to do the most en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble thing that we can do within the frame­work of what we’re able to ac­com­plish. And I think it re­ally sheds in a pos­i­tive light, at least in my mind, on the prospects for this project,” Plewis said.

Coun­cil­lor Pat Friesen also agreed the project was a pos­i­tive one.

“In this project it’s a win all the way around. We’re re­cy­cling. We’re re­duc­ing the amount of things go­ing into our land­fill. We’re gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity which we can use in our fa­cil­i­ties. And the byprod­uct can also be used as a soil amend­ment or in­cor­po­rated into com­post­ing. So there is ab­so­lutely no losers here in this. And I think we need to point that out that this is just ab­so­lutely favourable all the way around.”

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