Monthly Archives: September 2013

Many Pipeline Projects

pipelineprojects

Opponents are continuing to urge President Barack Obama to deny a federal permit for the proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, saying it doesn’t serve U.S. energy interests and would contribute to global warming. Supporters say the pipeline is by far the safest way to transport the oil from Canadian tar-sands deposits, would help free the United States from dependence on oil from the Middle East, and will create jobs.

While all have huge economic benefits the public and President Obama are concerned over the potential environmental impacts.

Whether you are for or against one of the 14 new or expanded oil and gas pipeline projects there is no denying that business is booming.  The boom is due to a huge increase in supply across North America, more oil and shale gas is being discovered, and companies need pipelines to bring it to customers.

Keystone is not the only proposed oil pipeline project but certainly getting its fair share of press.  This list represents the ones in the forefront;

  • Enbridge’s Northern Gateway to the B.C. coast
  • Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper Expansion to the U.S.
  • Enbridge’s Line 9B Reversal in Ontario
  • Kinder-Morgan’s Trans Mountain doubled line from Alberta to B.C.
  • TransCanada’s Keystone XL to the U.S. Gulf Coast
  • TransCanada Energy East to Eastern Canada

Google and Facebook have been two of the most forward-looking U.S. companies when it comes to clean energy, using their influence to push governments and utilities in the states where they operate toward climate action, and giving their users reason to believe they’re not just in business to make billions at any cost. They’ve been renewable energy champions in North Carolina, Iowa and Oklahoma, and they’ve been very public about being green. For Google, which has a data center in Oklahoma, that it powers with clean energy, is a climate leader. Greenpeace and others have praised Google’s clean energy leadership.  They are among the supporters of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Maybe the Keystone Pipeline XL project along with the others is good business decisions that will benefit our country in more ways than one and may not pose the devastating environmental effects the opponents are suggesting.

Converting Problems to Profit Centers

problemssolutions

Global demand for clean water and renewable energy is on the rise, while tolerance for pollution and potentially hazardous forms of power generation is on the decline. Traditional methods of waste management and wastewater treatment along with traditional forms of power generation are becoming less favored in lieu of net-positive energy, net-supplementary water, and net-zero waste management.

In the U.S., pollution of the air and water from mismanaged food waste disposal continues to grow. Governments and industries are constantly on the lookout for technologies that will provide a more efficient and cost effective management of this food waste. One technology that can successfully treat organic waste is anaerobic digestion (AD). AD not only prevents pollution, recovers valuable nutrients from the organic waste streams, but also enables sustainable energy production. Properly designed and utilized AD facilities can convert food waste disposal problems into profit centers.

Food waste is the single largest category of municipal solid waste (MSW). Diverting food waste from landfills can provide a significant contribution toward achieving EPA, state and local mandated solid waste diversion goals. In addition, diverting food waste from landfills prevents uncontrolled emissions contributing to pollution. Currently, only about 2.5% of food waste is recycled nationwide, and the principal technology is composting. While composting provides an alternative to landfill, it requires large areas of land, produces volatile organic compounds, smells, and consumes energy. Consequently, Anaerobic Digestion is becoming the preferred method of waste management for food waste.

Anaerobic Digestion, a natural biological process involving the microbiological conversion of organic matter into methane has been used for many years and produces two beneficial end products, biogas and fertilizer. The renewable energy produced by these digestion systems can be used on-site or sold to the public grid.

Maintaining a high-efficiency anaerobic digester is a complex undertaking, requiring a high degree of knowledge, potentially a large input of time, and a constant reliable feedstock. It can be challenging to acquire the skills sets, to carve out the time required to maintain and operate a digester successfully, or more importantly, to source the volume of organic waste needed to feed the digester.  The U.S. has had a very high failure rate because of these problems which is why the U.S. has been slow to adopt this method completely.

There are also only a handful of commercial scale Anaerobic Digestion plants in the U.S. that accept only food waste. Most AD facilities process a blend of feedstocks including, for example, food waste with agricultural slurries, energy crops, green waste etc. Blending food waste with other waste streams helps the digesters to overcome their digestion problems.

Many wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters which are able to overcome all digestive problems because of the diverse waste received.  In order to supply these anaerobic digesters with more feedstock to produce the maximum amount of renewable energy possible, technology residing at the point of generation to digest food waste and simply send it through the sewer systems to the wastewater treatment facilities is certainly the path of least resistance.  Today, all of the organic waste generated in the U.S. is placed on trucks destined for landfills, distant compost facilities and anaerobic digesters.  The transportation of food waste consumes huge amounts of energy and causes pollution.

Slowly, however, the landscape is changing; because of growing environmental costs and concerns, the advantages of pollution prevention, the organic nutrient recovery and reuse potential, and the production of renewable energy. Industries and institutions alike are choosing to become more responsible in terms of environmental stewardship, energy usage, and self-sustainability. Already implemented in many venues across the globe, is the Eco-Safe Digester, ideal for use in any food service, hospitality, healthcare, government, conference center, education center, or stadium that generates a high volume of waste handling their food waste at the point of generation.

The Eco-Safe Digester is a perfect piece to this puzzle.  It is the best organic waste management solution for a number of industries and customers that search for strategies that can simultaneously be cost effective, reduce their carbon footprint, and help to create renewable energy. The demand for an environmentally-efficient waste management process without creating harmful emissions is growing. Alternative transportation solutions and access to additional feedstock will lead to increased success of anaerobic digestion.  BioHitech America is at the forefront of such progress and is certain to remain so with the company’s continually evolving Eco-Safe Digester technology.

The Power of We

harvestpowerlogo

Harvest Power continues to implement solutions in strategic geographic clusters and has grown rapidly since its founding in 2008 garnering awards for its business of energy generation and soil revitalization.

Their model provides a solution to three distinct challenges: diverting material from landfills, producing renewable energy, and sustainably utilizing water and nutrients.

Harvest Power imports anaerobic digesters from Germany which captures the biogas byproduct of decomposing food and generates electricity and thermal heat.  They have just announced that they are converting one of their compost facilities into one of the largest commercial-scale high solids anaerobic digester facilities in North America for organic waste.  The facility, Energy Garden, is located in Richmond, British Columbia and will have the capacity to convert 40,100 tons of food and yard waste per year from residential and commercial generators into clean energy. Harvest Power was attracted to convert their Richmond facility into something more because of the region’s progressive environmental policies.

The facility is expected to produce enough energy to power about 900 homes per year generating revenue from the energy sales.   “This facility represents the innovation, passion and commitment required to usher in the future of organics management,” said Paul Sellew, Harvest Power founder and CEO. “We are excited to continue our partnership with Metro Vancouver and the city of Richmond community to cost-effectively convert organic materials once destined for the landfill into clean energy.”  This facility will represent a cost savings to the municipality who will pay about 50% less on their waste hauling bills by trucking less waste to landfills.

Harvest Power is just one local business retooling to take advantage of an upcoming policy change.  In 2015, all Metro Vancouver homeowners and businesses will be required to separate organic waste, including food scraps.  Some businesses are already setting up a new process in advance of the new rules. Costco should be regarded as a trend setter as they have been ahead of this new legislation for months.  The installation of the Eco-Safe Digester is eliminating the transportation of food scraps thus reducing their carbon footprint meeting the requirements of climate change legislation.

The end result of turning the food waste into energy is far better than into bags of compost.  But creating that type of facility is expensive and can’t be done without help.   Financing for the Energy Garden included $4 million from Natural Resources Canada and $1.5 million from BC Bioenergy Network in addition to $2 million from Metro Vancouver for site improvements over the next 10 years.

Vancouver business owners will still have to pay for waste disposal no matter where their food waste ends up, choosing a process and a solution that works best for your business takes time and due diligence.

Lookout NYC Business Owners

risingcosts

Your trash bill is about to go up 15%.  You have the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to thank as they believe it’s time to increase the city’s waste rate cap and they are not stopping there.   They are also proposing to increase rates every other year starting in 2015.

The cost to own and operate a business in NYC is hard, costly and competitive and when operating costs go up they pass those costs on to the customer.  Profits have to outweigh expenses and any slight increase will translate to elevated prices for goods.

This increase represents a long-time goal of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), who believes that the current cap is unfair. Thomas Toscano, president of the NYC chapter of the NSWMA, commends the program, arguing that the increases will help to pay off the rise in fuel, equipment and labor costs.  According to Tuscano, he is looking forward to the day that the BIC will question the necessity of even having a cap.

New York City businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Those that generate waste will have to incur the 15% increase this year and then look forward to more increases every two years going forward.  It might be time for businesses to rethink their waste strategy and consider shifting to a smarter strategy, one that eliminates the largest portion of their waste, food waste.

The hauler currently charges you for the weight of the waste.  If you were to install an Eco-Safe Digester to process food waste on-site, the volume and weight would be reduced quickly and you would not have to be at the mercy of the rate increases.

Is it worth throwing hundreds of dollars into the trash every week to haul away garbage? Since there will be no means of avoiding the spikes in hauling costs, there are ways to lower your garbage bill. Instead of complaining about the increase in price look to first minimize trash production and then eliminate it on-site. The Eco-Safe Digester exists; time to take waste matters into your own hands. 

Droughts and Wildfires a Recipe for Disaster

wildfire

A drought has many causes.  High temperatures, too little rainfall causing dry lands, increased water demands and water shortages are more or less the perfect storm contributing to droughts.

This past summer has been the absolute worst for the western states, with most of California, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico experiencing drought conditions that range from “severe” to “exceptional” for months at a time.

Droughts become more frequent and longer lasting driving some states to put limitations on their water usage. Over the last two months, 85% of the western states have had to force nearly 15 million people to live under water rationing while thirty communities in Texas predict that they will be completely out of water by the end of the year.

But droughts are not the only epidemic spreading like wildfire this summer.  The dry conditions of our western forests are literally causing rampant wildfires that the US is having trouble containing and extinguishing.

2013, thus far, has been a sad and long story for our forests.  Wildfires are consuming more acres than ever before in history.   31,900 fires have hit 3 million acres in the United States so far this year, with 40 active fires still burning in more than 6 states. One of the largest blazes is located on the western boundary of Yosemite National Park in California. The fire has been ravaging the land burning more than 288 square miles and threatening 5,000 homes nearby, resulting in California’s governor to declare a state of emergency in San Francisco, located 150 miles away.

The California “Rim Fire,” which began August 17th, has already been labeled as one of the largest wildfires in California history, and it’s still spreading. More than 4,000 firefighters are currently working on quelling the blaze, and they expect to have it contained by September 20th. However, it is impossible to predict how much destruction there will be by then.

Researchers believe that wildfires will soon become more common as the temperatures get warmer and forests begin to lose their moisture. Once trees dry up, they lose their ability to resist the effects of fire and unable to protect themselves.  As droughts continue to last longer what water will there be to help firefighters attack these wildfires?

There is no mistaking the correlation between rising temperatures, global climate change, increasing droughts and raging wildfires. There is also no mistaking the dependency on water to extinguish these fires.

From Trash to Power

fishkills

For years, landfills have been known as the enemy. Environmentalists have been arguing against the lack of value landfills bring and the numerous negative effects they pose to the environment and the people living in the surrounding areas.  It took some time, but Fresh Kills Landfill on New York City’s Staten Island has found a way to take state-of-the-art technology to turn their trash into something useful.

Fresh Kills Landfill is one of 30 landfills around the country that are turning landfill gas into “high BTU” pipeline quality natural gas and heating 342,000 homes per year.

Fresh Kills is not the only facility capable of such possibilities. Locations all over the country, such as Greenwood Farms Landfill in Tyler, Texas and Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley, Washington have been taking the extra step to create natural gas. In fact, 31 percent of U.S. landfills have taken this step, generating enough power for 1,829,000 homes.

Fresh Kills, which opened in 1948, stopped accepting waste in 2001. But decades later is still generating methane and is expected to do so at a significant rate for at least another decade. So, the city decided to turn what was once the largest landfill in the country, at 2,200 acres, into a park but needed to clean up the emissions in order to do so.

The Fresh Kills landfill now generates energy through the collection of released landfill gas. New York City is paid $12 million each year for the gas which means that the methane generated as this trash decomposes is no longer released into the atmosphere offering a great landscape for a park.

The obvious benefits from this project lie in the production of new energy, which is both cost-effective and eco-friendly. Not only does the project mitigate the dependency on fossil fuels, but the state of New York gets paid for this clean natural gas.

How Accurate is This Data?

epa

Have you ever wondered how much trash you create on a day-to-day basis?

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempts to calculate how much waste the average American actually generates. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) represents all of the garbage that we throw out daily, ranging from grass clippings to batteries. The most recent EPA report comes from 2011, which shows a promising increase in recycling, however, the 50 states do not count waste consistently.

The typical American generates as little as 4.4 pounds of waste a day. This number represents everything that is tossed away, whether it is going to be recycled or not. After a year, the average person is expected to generate 1,606 pounds of waste, adding to the 250 million tons of waste amassed in the United States.

Thanks to a renewed state and local interest in the environment, 34% is recycled, up slightly from last year, 11% is burned for energy but 55% is still sent to landfills.  The largest portion recycled includes corrugated boxes, glass bottles, cans, batteries, and office paper paper representing one quarter of the waste generated per person a day.  But more needs to be done.

Over the last 5 years or so composting was thought to be the best answer for yard and food waste both large parts of the current waste stream.  Unfortunately, the process was hard to manage, costly to operate and riddled with odor, citing, and transportation emission problems.

Aside from reducing green house gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, recycling provides significant economic and job creation impacts.  The EPA is helping change the way our society protects the environment and conserves resources for future generations by thinking beyond recycling, composting, and disposal by researching and relying on green technologies, like the Eco-Safe Digester, to reach faster and more reliable recycling success. Accurate data on municipal solid waste generation, recycling and disposal is an important starting point in finding the best approach.

Although recycling rates are on a slow rise again, the largest percentage of waste is still going into landfills causing concerns.  Landfills themselves are slowly reaching capacity and have proven to degrade our environment.