Recovering Resources from Wastewater
How Metro Vancouver is using innovative approaches to generate energy and other resources from wastewater.

Metro Vancouver is working on various initiatives to make the most of the energy-rich resources in wastewater.
Four of Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plants use wastewater to generate heat, electricity, or renewable natural gas.

 

 

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Turning Wastewater into Renewable Natural Gas

Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plants produce biogas as part of their treatment processes. Biogas is a valuable resource that can be used instead of conventional natural gas, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Biogas is currently used at our wastewater treatment plants in a range of ways:

  • At the Annacis Island and Iona Wastewater Treatment Plants, the biogas is used to produce both heat and electricity (“co-generation”) that is used at the plants. The new North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant will do this as well.
  • At the Lulu Island Wastewater Treatment plant, the biogas is used to generate all plant heating needs. A facility was installed at the Lulu Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2021 to clean up excess biogas and sell the resulting renewable natural gas to Fortis BC. Plans are underway to expand the facility to make additional gas available.
  • Metro Vancouver is assessing how best to use the biogas at its other facilities, including the upgraded Northwest Langley and Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plants.

Producing Biofuel

A pilot project with Metro Vancouver and Parkland Fuel Corporation is looking at how to extract the carbon in wastewater biomass and turn it into biocrude oil through a process called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL). This biocrude oil can then be converted into a low-carbon fuel for cars, planes and other transportation modes. The project is in the design stage.

Using Sewage for Heating and Cooling

There is enough excess heat in Metro Vancouver’s wastewater to heat about 700 high rises. Recovering heat from sewage can provide renewable, fossil fuel-free heat to residents and businesses in the region, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Several projects to recover heat from wastewater are currently under design or in construction:
  • The new North Shore wastewater treatment plant, currently under construction, will recover 5 MW of heat and sell it to the nearby Lonsdale Energy Corporation, which is owned by the City of North Vancouver.
  • In Richmond, a project is being designed to recover heat that can used by residents and businesses in the Richmond Oval area.
  • Metro Vancouver is helping to fund a project with the City of New Westminster that will recover heat and use it at the Royal Columbia Hospital and in the Sapperton District.

Other Emerging Resource Recovery Opportunities

Metro Vancouver continues to look for new ways to extract other resources from wastewater and make wastewater treatment processes more efficient. Current projects include:
  • Metro Vancouver is developing a policy to guide the use of treated wastewater instead of potable water in certain situations, like watering golf courses and flushing sewers.
  • A pilot project is looking at ways to increase the amount of biogas-producing bacteria in the wastewater treatment plant digesters. Making the right bacteria flourish can result in more – and better quality – biogas that can be converted into renewable natural gas for sale to Fortis BC.
  • A project is developing a handheld DNA monitor to rapidly identify microorganisms in wastewater. Ensuring that the right microorganisms are present during wastewater treatment processes can improve plant performance and achieve higher quality treated wastewater to support opportunities for water reclamation and use.

In 2020, Metro Vancouver received a Water Research Foundation award that recognized its innovative approaches and commitment to sustainability for a low carbon region.