Metro Vancouver’s Current Waste-to-Energy Facility

Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility has operated in Burnaby since 1988.

The Facility

Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility is a mass-burn facility that handles about a quarter of the region’s garbage, generates enough electricity to power 16,000 homes, and recovers about 8,000 tonnes of metals annually. Metro Vancouver annually earns about $6 million from the sale of electricity and $500,000 from the sale of recycled metal to a company that produces reinforcing steel.

Waste To Energy Revenue Chart

Throughout its 25 years in service, the facility has performed considerably better than the required regulatory emissions standards. Its performance has improved over time due to continuous operational improvements, and frequent upgrades of emission control systems. This commitment to environmental safety means that today emissions are extremely low.

Environmental monitoring

Metro Vancouver’s facility is equipped with state-of-the-art pollution control equipment, which results in extremely low levels of air emissions. Stack emissions and air quality around the facility have been monitored since the facility opened in 1988. Emission summaries are reported monthly to the BC Ministry of Environment, the City of Burnaby, and the Fraser Health Authority.

Environmental Monitoring

Any facility that manages the disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) produces emissions. Waste-to-energy facilities are no exception, but stringent environmental regulations are placed on modern facilities to ensure that conversion of waste to useful energy and materials is carefully controlled and well-monitored.

Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility produces very low levels of air emissions. Monitoring of both stack emissions and air quality around the facility has been conducted since facility startup in 1988. The range of contaminants monitored is broad, including common air contaminants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), as well as acid gases, trace metals, trace organics, and dioxins / furans. Monitoring results are provided to the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the regulator for the Facility. A summary of the monitoring results is available here.

The following graphics provide a summary of the waste to energy facility emissions of two key air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These pollutants are management priorities in Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan. NOx is key pollutant which leads to the formation of ground-level ozone, while PM2.5 is responsible for a significant portion of the human health impacts associated with air pollution in the Lower Fraser Valley.

The pie charts below show the proportion of Lower Fraser Valley PM2.5 and NOX emitted by Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility in 2014. The line charts show the Facility’s PM2.5 and NOX emissions performance over time, with the BC Ministry of Environment regulatory limits indicated in red. From these charts it is clear that the Metro Vancouver Waste-to-Energy Facility contributes a very small proportion of PM2.5 and NOX emissions to the region’s airshed. The facility has always performed considerably better than the required regulatory emissions standards, has continued to improve performance over time, through continuous operational improvements, and major upgrades of emissions control equipment.

2014 Lower Fraser Valley Fine Particle Matter (PM2.5) Emissions Sources

2014 Lower Fraser Valley Fine Particle Matter (PM2.5) Emissions Sources

WTEF Emissions Performance - Particulate Matter

WTEF Emissions Performance - Particulate Matter

What is PM2.5?
PM2.5 refers to microscopic solid and liquid particles, 2.5 micrometres or smaller, that are suspended in the atmosphere; can be emitted directly from sources or formed secondarily in the atmosphere. The major sources of PM2.5 in the Lower Fraser Valley are from Heating (including residential wood burning), industrial sources, open burning, non-road engines, air/rail/marine engines, on-road vehicle engines. PM2.5 emissions from Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-energy Facility account for 0.001% of the total emissions sources.

2014 Lower Fraser Valley Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Emissions Sources

2014 Lower Fraser Valley Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) Emissions Sources

WTEF Emissions Performance - Nitrogen Oxides

WTEF Emissions Performance - Nitrogen Oxides

What is Nitrogen oxides (NO)x?
Nitrogen oxides (NO)x is group of highly reactive gases that include nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2); NO2 is an odorous, brown and highly corrosive gas. The major sources of NOx in the Lower Fraser Valley are from on-road vehicle engines, air / rail / marine engines, non-road engines, industrial sources, heating (including residential wood burning). NOx emissions from Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-energy Facility account for 0.7% of the total emissions sources in 2014.

Why does Metro Vancouver test for PM2.5 & NOx emissions?
Metro Vancouver is aware of the medical and scientific research which says that exposure to PM2.5 and NOx without stringent control mechanisms can lead to variety of detrimental health and environmental outcomes. For that reason, these are key emissions we test for, not only from our Waste-to-Energy Facility, but also from all known sources of these pollutants in our region. The pie charts above have more detail of PM2.5 & NOx emission sources.

PDFs of other emission sources tested for by Metro Vancouver, and their performance history:

Emissions Performance

Performance data for Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-energy Facility, (latest data available)

Performance data for Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-energy Facility

This is what goes in and comes out from processing one tonne of garbage at our waste-to-energy facility.

Waste To Energy Revenue Chart

Metro Vancouver’s existing waste-to-energy facility has consistently met stringent emission limits since it opened in 1988. Air quality monitoring stations located near the facility have never detected degraded conditions that could be attributed to the waste-to-energy operation.

See our Air Map and find out today’s air quality throughout Metro Vancouver.

These pie charts illustrate all sources of fine particulate matter and the smog-forming nitrogen oxides in the Lower Fraser Valley. The proportion from Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility is less than one per cent, and a new facility would emit even less.

Fine Particle Matter Emissions Sources 2014

Nitrogen Oxides Sources 2014

Development of Metro Vancouver’s new waste-to-energy project would include detailed site-specific environmental and human health risk assessments to ensure that it would not negatively affect human health or the natural environment. These assessments will be conducted in consultation with stakeholders including residents, local and regional governments, and health authorities, and will be reviewed by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office.

Scientific studies on health

Disposing of ash

Ash produced in the waste-to-energy process is treated and disposed of safely. Bottom ash is captured in furnace grates and tested weekly to ensure it can be safely disposed of at the Vancouver Landfill.

The fine particulates created during the burning process are captured by a flue gas cleaning system as fly ash, treated to prevent leaching, and then disposed of at a landfill. After these processes, when 285,000 tonnes of garbage are burned, the remaining particulates in the plant’s exhaust are equivalent to those emitted by 10 heavy-duty diesel trucks.

Interested in a closer look at Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility? Take a tour.

Book a school tour for grade 5 to 12 classes on-line here. For all other tours, call the facility for a booking at 604.521.1025

Facility Fact Sheet

Read our fact sheet to learn how Metro Vancouver generates energy at our waste-to-energy facility.