September 2021 - Bioenergy Insight Magazine

Canada’s Agricultural & Dairy Market

Industry Insight with DMT

Keywords: biogas from agriculture in canada, agriculture, biogas, Canada, Carborex® MS, membranes, membrane systems, membrane technology, renewable natural gas, RNG, biogas upgrading

Author: Missy Lee

Featured in Bioenergy Insight‘s 2021 September/October issue, this article discusses biogas from Canada’s agriculture market.

Today’s Canadian biogas and renewable natural gas (RNG) market holds much promise. Since 2010, Canada has accumulated a dozen RNG projects. Yet only sixteen percent of their total biogas and RNG projects use agricultural feedstock. With Canada only tapping into thirteen percent of its biogas potential, by far the biggest growth opportunity is in the agricultural sector. This is because crop residues and animal manure make up two thirds of Canada’s easily available biogas resources.

Growth in the Agricultural Industry

As a leading technology supplier for Canada, DMT has been actively developing the agricultural RNG market for some time now. This past summer, we replaced a water wash system with our membrane separation technology in British Columbia (BC). This mid-size dairy farmer wanted to focus more on farming and less on operating a RNG facility. And later this year, DMT will complete another biogas upgrading system for a large dairy farm in Ontario.

So how does a country with only a dozen RNG projects suddenly get two RNG projects within a year? Essentially, the groundwork was already laid. By working on projects in the U.S., DMT reduced lead times perfecting a standardized, pre-engineered model. Additionally, the development of our extensive network of local vendors and partners in the last six years has improved project execution overall.

A standardized approach immediately benefited DMT’s presence in the dairy RNG industry both in the U.S. and Canada. This is because it offers versatility and wide application to dairy farms regardless of size. For dairy farmers or project developers, this model is a huge incentive. Projects can be online quicker, selling RNG sooner, and generating immediate revenue. For example, the BC dairy farmer was able to complete installation, commissioning, and start-up, using only DMT remote support, with this ‘plug and play’ model. This was not initially planned but proved effective in order to maintain project timelines during the pandemic.

Canada’s Biogas Potential

What’s held back the agricultural biogas sector in Canada? For one, most of the anaerobic digesters thus far are on mid-size dairy farms (approximately 250 milking cows) that co-digest dairy manure with off-farm organic waste. With the average Canadian dairy farm holding 89 milking cows, limited farm size makes it difficult for these projects to achieve feasibility for RNG production. Additionally, other factors known very well in our industry to hold back RNG projects in general, such as distance to the natural gas pipeline, feedstock ratio, and price of RNG have also affected the market’s potential. But not for long.