By Peter Gorrie, BioCycle.
We want as much green gas supply as possible,” notes Don Beverly, with Gaz Métro, the largest natural gas distributor in Canada’s province of Quebec. That’s the growing message from officials at utilities in three of the country’s 13 provinces and territories, where government policies on climate change and waste diversion have combined with public pressure to spike interest in renewable natural gas, also known as RNG or biomethane.
Almost everyone in the Canadian industry expresses similar enthusiasm. “We’ve been putting a lot of focus on opportunities with RNG,” explains Jennifer Green, executive director of the Canadian Biogas Association, the national lobbying group for biogas production. “Opportunities are very much prompted by a lot of policy developments converging. Momentum is growing nationally, and Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in RNG production.” Still, industry supporters acknowledge it’s early days for RNG and daunting challenges must be overcome.
RNG now accounts for a mere 0.016 percent of Canada’s natural gas consumption. To date, fewer than a dozen production facilities have been built, and, apart from one small pilot project, they’re all located in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, which, granted, contain nearly three-quarter’s of Canada’s population. The current low price of fossil fuels has weakened the economic case for RNG, underlying the need for policies that provide adequate, stable and long-term revenue streams.
Most prospective developments are on hold, awaiting transformation of supportive but vague government policy pronouncements into detailed regulations and programs. The federal government is looking at a plan to have carbon pricing — either through a direct price ($50/metric ton is being considered) or cap-and-trade system — in every part of the country as of next year. As a complement, it also promises to enact a national Clean Fuel Standard aimed at achieving a 30-megatonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption in transportation, homes, businesses and industry. The standard is under discussion, promised for 2019 but with no indication of what it might look like.