Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Monthly Archives: October 2015

No Fracking Way – Reducing my household heating impact through bio-gas offsets

My family recently moved into a new townhouse in Ottawa.  Our house has a Goodman natural gas furnace which is only a couple years old.  It has an annual fuel utilization efficiency of 95% and is Energy Star certified.  Despite its high efficiency I’m still worried about our consumption of natural gas (otherwise known as Methane).  Methane burns cleaner than most fuels however the hydraulic fracking process used to extract it from the ground can damage the water supply, and it also creates fugitive methane emissions which are very difficult to measure and therefore largely unaccounted for in current greenhouse gas accounting programs.

The alternative to using methane from hydraulic fracking is to get it from landfill sites.  Landfills and composting facilities produce methane from organic waste.  Things like rotting fruit, vegetables, or other biomaterials produce methane.  The conventional practice was just to vent this methane into the atmosphere so it doesn’t build up and cause a risk of explosion.  Venting it to the atmosphere contributes to global warming much more than burning it would (20-80 times as much).  This methane can be captured and injected into the current utility pipeline for natural gas.  Methane is much more potent of a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide, and when methane is burned it produces Carbon Dioxide.  This means that by capturing and burning the methane that landfill sites produce, we are not just reducing the global warming potential of landfills, but also providing a source of fuel.

Most fuel providers don’t sell landfill gas, however Bullfrog Power now provides green natural gas from bio-gas facilities.  As mentioned above they harvest the waste gas from rotting bio materials and inject it into the natural gas pipeline on your behalf.  The facilities that they use are both local and innovative, and the cost premium you pay directly funds this innovation.  They are currently funding three bio-gas locations in Ontario, including the Toronto Zoo’s Zooshare project which captures methane emissions from “animal poo”.  The cost of offsetting your home’s natural gas consumption with natural bio-gas is approximately $20-$30 each month.  Its even cheaper for us because we have an Energy Star certified furnace and our home is a semi-detached townhouse.