An Ontario project aims to use corn stover to feed biodigesters, forming a new market and use for corn stalks.
EverGen, a British Columbia-based renewable energy company, has committed $1.5 million to help kickstart three southern Ontario on-farm biodigesters as part of a recently announced partnership deal called Project Radius.
Why it matters: Farms who run biodigesters have not, until now, used corn stover as a digester feedstock, though Europe has done it for years.
The other partner in the plan to produce and market renewable natural gas (RNG) is Toronto-based green energy investment firm Northeast Renewables.
Supporting stakeholders in the Ontario agriculture sector are The Andersons grain trading and farm input company and the Ontario Biomass Producers Cooperative.
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The plan also includes marketing digestate from the facilities as a crop input.
“The acquisition of Project Radius provides a foothold in Ontario – a new and strategic jurisdiction in which EverGen can continue to participate in the consolidation and growth of the RNG industry,” said CEO Chase Edgelow in a news release.
“Ontario has an abundant amount of excess organic feedstock, and as a leader in the RNG industry, EverGen can develop the sustainable infrastructure that contributes to carbon-negative energy production and the greening of the province.”
Locations for the planned trio of biodigesters weren’t disclosed but the news release described them as “three high-quality, on-farm RNG projects, collectively capable of producing approximately 1.7 million gigajoules per year of RNG.”
Construction is expected to take place “throughout 2023 and 2024.”
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The Project Radius website linked to both the EverGen and Northeast Renewables website includes a map with four (not three) locations identified as being at Huron/Bruce, Oxford/Perth, Oxford/Norfolk and Stormont Dundas and Glengarry.
“Our RNG facilities are designed, engineered and permitted to process only onfarm agricultural materials,” the website states. “They cannot accept, store or handle municipal solid waste, food waste, industrial and commercial waste or human waste.”
In the Canadian distribution system, RNG is interchangeable with natural gas but is seen as contributing to the country’s climate change commitments because its production doesn’t contribute in the same way to global warming. Gas produced by biodigesters typically requires some degree of purification before it can be injected into the natural gas pipeline.
Contacted by Farmtario, Edgelow said Project Radius is in “late-stage negotiations” with natural gas distributors for the three planned biodigesters.
EverGen’s initial investment is meant to help Northeast Renewables take the three planned biodigesters to the “Notice-to-Proceed” stage, which is expected within six months. At that point, the B.C.-based company “will have the right to participate in funding its proportionate share of the capital” required for full construction, as well as “a right of first offer to transition as exclusive operator.”
“Ontario represents a large potential market for RNG with abundant high-quality organic feedstocks and existing gas distribution infrastructure,” Edgelow said about the attraction of Ontario investment.
“We saw an opportunity to continue to expand our portfolio in this important jurisdiction leveraging our technical expertise and relationships across Canada.”
The partnership’s website outlines efforts to establish relationships with The Andersons (formerly Thompsons) for “a holistic supply chain that originates corn stover from local growers and returns organic digestate to the farm community as an agricultural input,” and with the Ontario Biomass Producers Cooperative “to engage with corn growers and custom equipment operators to help create a new, value-added market for crop residues.”
The Ontario Biomass Producers Cooperative was originally created to sell wheat and corn into a cellulosic sugars plant in the Sarnia area.
Edgelow said the goal of the company “has always been to close the RNG infrastructure gap in Canada and develop solutions for organics and agricultural waste and this project has gotten us another step closer to that goal.”