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High River council digs into proposed biodigester

The Town of High River is working to find out more about a proposed biodigester planned next to Rimrock Feeders in Foothills County and is growing cautious about the implications if the project is approved.
NEWS- Rimrock Feeders RK 8545WEB
Rimrock Feeders in Foothills County, west of High River on Aug. 27.

The Town of High River is working to find out more about a proposed biodigester planned beside Rimrock Feeders and is growing cautious about the implications if the project is approved. 

The natural-gas-generating biodigester is planned through a partnership between Rimrock Cattle Company and Tidewater Renewables Ltd. and will convert feedlot waste and food waste into renewable natural gas that will be sold as green energy. 

“We’re kind of digging in a little bit more on an advocacy and an education piece, to try to figure out exactly what’s going on out at Rimrock with this biodigester and how it will ultimately affect High River and our residents,” Mayor Craig Snodgrass said during a council meeting on Nov. 28. 

Located about five kilometres west of High River, the biodigester would use an anaerobic process, in an oxygen-free environment, to produce natural gas. 

In October, Tidewater Renewables announced a 20-year agreement to sell gas from the plant to FortisBC Energy. 

Snodgrass made a motion during the council meeting that the biodigester be a standing item on council agendas, and to appoint Coun. Nychyk to take the lead on the issue. The motion was carried. 

Nychyk spoke about it during a committee meeting earlier that day. 

“My concern at this point is the facility that’s being proposed in association with Rimrock Feeders is not something we want next to our community, for a number of reasons," he said. 

Questions about water and air quality, and whether the biodigester would reduce odours from the feedlot or make them worse, were a few of the concerns he brought up. 

Coun. Jenny Jones said straight answers from Rimrock about the biodigester “seem to be not happening.” 

The biodigester was initially touted as a solution to strong odours coming from the adjacent feedlot, although it is not clear how effective it would be at reducing that odour. 

Representatives from Rimrock told council earlier this year that although they felt the biodigester would reduce odours, they couldn't make any promises.

The natural gas plant would span over 39 hectares, including a more-than nine hectare digestate pond to hold liquid by-product that would be spread on fields as a fertilizer alternative.

An application for industrial approval made to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) says the biodigester is designed to process 80,000 tonnes of livestock manure from the Rimrock feedlot, as well as 60,000 tonnes of trucked-in food waste each year, although it could potentially handle up to 100,000 tonnes of livestock manure and 80,000 tonnes of food waste each year. 

The cost of the project is expected to be $65 million to $70 million and it would produce up to 610,000 GJ of renewable natural gas per year. 

Landowners and residents within 1,500 metres of the project boundary have been able to meet with company representatives one-on-one, but the company has not held any public meetings about the project. 

Snodgrass said  Tidewater would not appear at a public council meeting. 

“Tidewater did decline to come to that environment, they just won’t do it,” Snodgrass said. 

Tidewater declined to speak to the Western Wheel about the project. 

“As the project is still going through its regulatory process, our standard company practice is to not conduct interviews,” said an email from a company spokesperson. 

Of particular concern in High River, the project application states that a letter of support was received from the Town’s mayor. 

Snodgrass said that neither he, nor the Town of High River, ever sent a letter of support for the biodigester. 

Nychyk said a decision from the AEP on approval of the project is expected in early spring, and although the Town of High River has no direct control over the project, it would feel its effects if it is approved. He told council he would have a more in-depth report for their next meeting.

Robert Korotyszyn

About the Author: Robert Korotyszyn

Robert Korotyszyn covers Okotoks and Foothills County news for and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact [email protected]
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