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Edmonton working with Norwegian company to turn waste into green energy

The City of Edmonton is partnering with Varme Energy Inc. to divert about 150,000 tonnes of residential waste away from landfills, and convert it to green electricity at a proposed waste-to-energy facility outside the city. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
The City of Edmonton is partnering with Varme Energy Inc. to divert about 150,000 tonnes of residential waste away from landfills, and convert it to green electricity at a proposed waste-to-energy facility outside the city. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

A Norwegian clean energy development company has signed an agreement with the City of Edmonton to create one of Canada's first industrial scale waste-to-energy facilities.

In a news release sent Wednesday, officials announced the city would divert about 150,000 tonnes of residential waste away from landfills, and dispose of it at a waste-to-energy facility operated by Varme Energy Inc.

Slated to begin in early 2027, the facility, which will be located about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, will convert residential waste into green electricity and industrial heat. It will cost roughly $300 million to build.

The facility will produce steam that either generates electricity or provides heat for homes and industrial processes. The process will also integrate carbon capture and storage.

Shawn Collins, CEO of Varme Energy Inc., said in an interview Tuesday the agreement will result in what he believes will be the largest avoidance of methane in Edmonton.

"When you incorporate carbon capture, all of the emissions that would normally be escaping out of the exhaust stack of a waste energy facility are captured and sequestered underground," he said.

"By combusting that and putting it underground, you both avoid the methane at the landfill and capture all of your carbon and put it underground, making the round trip experience significantly carbon negative."

Shawn Collins, CEO of Varme Energy Inc., said in an interview Tuesday the facility will result in what he believes will be the largest avoidance of methane in Edmonton’s history.
Shawn Collins, CEO of Varme Energy Inc., said in an interview Tuesday the facility will result in what he believes will be the largest avoidance of methane in Edmonton’s history.

Shawn Collins, CEO of Varme Energy Inc., said in an interview Tuesday the facility will result in what he believes will be the largest avoidance of methane in Edmonton’s history. (Tiphanie Roquette/Radio-Canada)

Collins said conversations around the raw economics of carbon capture have only come to the forefront over the last couple of years, pointing to recently introduced tax credits from the provincial and federal governments.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced the Alberta Carbon Capture Incentive Program in November to increase investment in carbon capture, utilization and storage facilities (CCUS) in the province.

She told reporters at a news conference in Edmonton that CCUS facilities have the potential to become a powerful tool for building carbon-neutral economies.

"This technology is important because we're working to phase out emissions," Smith said in November. .

"We're not phasing out energy production."

Carbon capture facilities have been used in Europe and other parts of the world for more than three decades.

Varme Energy Inc. is also looking at operating a similar facility in Innisfail, Alta., 184 kilometres south of Edmonton. The company is also exploring projects in southern Alberta.

Denis Jubinville, the City of Edmonton’s branch manager of waste services, said there will be a “reasonable” cost to the city for diverting trash to Varme’s facility, but are looking at ways to mitigate impacts on ratepayers.
Denis Jubinville, the City of Edmonton’s branch manager of waste services, said there will be a “reasonable” cost to the city for diverting trash to Varme’s facility, but are looking at ways to mitigate impacts on ratepayers.

Denis Jubinville, the City of Edmonton’s branch manager of waste services, said there will be a “reasonable” cost to the city for diverting trash to Varme’s facility, but are looking at ways to mitigate impacts on ratepayers. (Aaron Sousa/CBC)

Denis Jubinville, the City of Edmonton's branch manager of waste services, said the city released a request for proposals in January 2023 for a waste energy provider as part of its climate resilience mandate and its 25-year waste strategy.

"Within that strategy, we talk about diverting waste out of landfill, every time waste goes to a landfill, there's the option or the potential of greenhouse gas that's emitted," he said.

"We want to reduce that as much as possible."

About 40 per cent of the waste collected by the city is already diverted away from the landfill through its recycling programs, Jubinville said.

The garbage that will be processed by Varme is part of the 60 per cent that has been going to the landfill.

He said there will be a "reasonable" cost to the city for diverting trash to Varme's facility, but could not say how much.

"But it is a lower cost than some of the other options that have been available to us for diverting waste," Jubinville said.

"It will increase the cost to the utility; however, we do have upcoming opportunities … that should enable us to mitigate some of the impacts to our ratepayers."

Until the facility opens in 2027, Jubinville said the city is working to educate residents on reducing waste where they can. Once it opens, the city will send residual garbage waste to the facility for a period of 15 years.