Waste-to-Energy Emissions Getting Even Lower

wteEmissions from Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility are getting lower and lower thanks to an upgraded nitrogen oxide control system.

Smog forms when nitrogen oxides react with other air pollutants in the presence of sunlight. The biggest sources of nitrogen oxides in our region are cars, trucks, ships and non-road vehicles like bulldozers.

“Our priority is to manage the waste in our growing region in the cleanest and safest way possible,” said Malcolm Brodie, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee. “Waste-to-energy technology also allows us to extract value from waste, as a bonus.”

“This project is part of ongoing efforts to minimize emissions from our facility,” he said.

Nitrogen oxide emissions from the facility were already low and below regulatory limits, accounting for less than one percent of total regional emissions. The upgrades have further reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 25 percent, and when the new system is complete, emissions will be less than half of the previous level.

The waste-to-energy facility’s emissions for pollutants such as dioxins, furans, heavy metals, fine particles and others are even lower – hundredths or thousandths of one percent of regional totals, and also well below regulatory limits.

The new emission reduction system involves modifications to the facility’s combustion air system to reduce the formation of nitrogen oxides plus improvements to the ammonia injection system to convert nitrogen oxides to harmless substances like water vapour and nitrogen gas. The cost of the upgrade is approximately $7 million and it is expected to be complete in December, 2014.

The waste-to-energy facility handles about a quarter of the region’s garbage, about 280,000 tonnes per year, and generates enough electricity to power 16,000 homes.

Metro Vancouver’s recycling rate is currently 58% and the region aims to achieve 80% recycling by 2020 as well as sufficient waste-to-energy capacity to take care of the waste that cannot be recycled or composted.

Metro Vancouver manages an extensive air quality monitoring network that spans the region from Lions Bay to Hope. Regional air quality has generally improved since the early 1970s when Metro Vancouver became responsible for management and monitoring.