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Biodigester powers up, dividends coming: Bacchus

Biodigester Aerial Shot

Mike Williscraft
NewsNow

No project cost details, a lot of blue sky projections and nothing in writing were the hallmarks of Grimsby Energy Chair Shafee Bacchus’s oral report to town council Monday regarding the biodigester.

Bacchus provided council with some nuts and bolts of how the project has been operating since it was first fired up last fall.

He said it was coming along “very slowly” with about 5 per cent increases in performance monthly, projecting the facility to be up to speed by year’s end or early into 2019.

“It takes 125 days for inputs to create gas. It’s a balancing act,” said Bacchus of getting the best recipe for methane production.

He did note some technical things, such as the facility eats up 80 cubic metres of feed stock daily. He added that many of their contracts for input material are at a minimal cost, or even no cost in some cases.

New on the revenue side is the potential of “engine fees”, Bacchus said.

He noted they are not allowed to charge tipping fees, but engine fees, he projected, could bring in as much as $155,000 in revenue which was not part of their initial business plan.

Bacchus said hydro officials have had several inquiries about partnerships – including from Enbridge Gas about obtaining excess methane produced – and they are looking at the potential sale of the output material from the digester to farmers as fertilizer.

With Enbridge, Bacchus said no additional funds would be spent on infrastructure and if Enbridge wanted the gas they would have to pay for the equipment which would take the methane output on Sobie Road from “sour gas” to usable gas.

To be usable, at least 35 per cent of the carbon dioxide present would have to be extracted, or “scrubbed” out, along with other toxins present.

There was also not mention of any added cost to treat the output material before it would be suitable for fertilizer.

As has been the track record of council, only Ald. Dave Kadwell and Ald. Joanne Johnston asked any questions of Bacchus who was making his first update to council in a year.

Kadwell asked if he could get a copy of Bacchus’s report. He got the same reply as last July, Bacchus did not have a formal written report, just some notes from which he spoke.

“Usually when we ask questions, we have a report beforehand to go through and digest,” said Kadwell to Bacchus.

Mayor Bob Bentley interjected.

“The request you made was for an update. You got an update,” said Bentley.

Kadwell then recalled that last year during Bacchus’s presentation he noted the construction cost has exceeded $10 million. The original budget for the facility was $3.5 million.

Bacchus would not comment further citing hydro is a “private organization”.

Again, Bentley interjected.

“It was pretty much done when you were here last year,” he said to Bacchus.

There was no discussion of the sound attenuation fencing which was part of the original site design and has been one of the several ongoing issues of non-compliance under their initial agreement.

However, Bacchus did note there is some berm work going on – thanks to Rankin Construction giving free fill to the facility and use of a bulldozer.

While Johnston called for more transparency with the biodigester any other comment from council was all positive.

There were not specifics on revenue generated, or costs related to generating that revenue, but Bacchus said dividend cheques are coming and Bentley added they are targeting 90 per cent performance on output, while only 80-85 is what was set in the budget.

Ald. Steve Berry, who said he was not a believer when the project started, is converted.

“I think I was wrong,” said Berry, noting the potential sale of excess gas could prove more lucrative than the FIT contract in place for electricity generation.

Ald. John Dunstall called the group “pioneers”, noting the plan has had bumps in the road, “but look at it now. We’re going to get dividends.”

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