Lethbridge Biogas – Opportunities & Challenges of Bioenergy Production in Alberta

Stefan Michalski.
Director of Operation, Lethbridge Biogas LP, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Lethbridge Biogas (LB) is one of Alberta’s true pioneers in the province’s Bioenergy landscape. Since 12/2013, LB is operating Alberta’s largest, privately operated, fully commercial biogas/cogeneration facility in Lethbridge, AB. The facility can be remotely controlled and has a processing capacity of more than 100,000 tons annually for livestock manures and food processing residues. Two 1.4 MW co-generation plants (CHP’s) use the biogas for the conversion into grid electricity and process heat. The facility captures methane and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta. The residual digestate is a valuable, balanced and nutrient rich product for agricultural use and is land applied in accordance with the province’s Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA). LB has received financial support from the expiring Alberta Bioenergy programs (BCMDP, BIDP, BPCP) and the Climate Change Emission Management (CCEMC) Corporation.

LB’s decade long project development process demonstrates the challenges Bioenergy producers in the province are still facing. Bioenergy addresses agricultural, environmental and energy related issues all at once and as such needs cross departmental collaboration and support within all levels of Government to be successful. Low-carbon Bioenergy production continues to be at a disadvantage when ‘competing’ with the hydrocarbon economy, market prices do not reflect their true environmental and societal benefits and sourcing capital in this environment is still a steep climb.

Today’s political buzz words are economic diversification, sustainable development, GHG reduction, innovation, job creation and strengthening rural economies. Alberta’s Bioenergy sector can be a cornerstone of the province’s economic diversification and climate action strategies but a Bioenergy Strategy is a key component of Alberta’s transition to a clean energy economy. Alberta can be a leader in the production and use of sustainable, low carbon Bioenergy products – but traditional thinking needs to change and paradigms need to shift to make this reality.