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Cutting NOx at Covanta Burnaby

Covanta, which operates 43 waste-to-energy (WTE) and wood-fired biomass power plants worldwide installed an updated emission control system at its Metro Vancouver WTE plant.
By Anna Simet | June 12, 2015

Being that we just sent our emissions, permitting and regulatory compliance issue to print, today I’m going to blog on a little bit of news Covanta Energy shared with me a few weeks ago.

Covanta, which operates 43 waste-to-energy (WTE) and wood-fired biomass power plants worldwide (and is always willing to talk to us for stories when we ask), installed an updated emission control system at its Metro Vancouver WTE plant (Covanta Burnaby Renewable Energy) at the beginning of the year.  

Since then, the plant has experienced an emissions reduction of 53 percent (which they equate to removing 20,000 cars on the road). That seems pretty significant.

The trademark technology was developed by Covanta as a retrofit for existing facilities like Metro Vancouver’s, and, as the company explains, results in an improved combustion process that minimizes nitrogen oxides. The project at Metro Vancouver has three main components: the trademarked Covanta low nitrogen oxides system, an upgrade to the facility’s existing selective noncatalytic reduction system, and related boiler upgrades.

Reports Covanta, prior to launching the nitrogen oxides reduction project, Metro Vancouver’s facility produced approximately 0.8 per cent of nitrogen oxides emissions in the region. The new emission control system has been operating since November 2014, and those emissions have been reduced to 0.4 percent of the emissions in the region.

It’s no surprise that the technology was developed by Covanta itself—they have a brilliant, dedicated crew there, and I’ve interviewed plenty of folks who have been at the company for all or the bulk of their career.

Board Chair Greg Moore said that the facility, which has been operating since 1998, has undergone continuous upgrading since it was built, and that the emissions are now significantly below what is required by law. In fact, the new technology brings nitrogen oxides down to nearly three times below approved limits: prior to launching the nitrogen oxides reduction project, Metro Vancouver’s facility produced approximately 0.8 per cent of nitrogen oxides emissions in the region. The new emission control system has been operating since November 2014, according to Covanta, and those emissions have been reduced to 0.4 percent of the emissions in the region.

WTE plants are often harshly criticized, but in many places, they are very important sources of energy, recycling resources, waste management, and a method of reducing methane emissions, to name a few benefits. At Burnaby alone, 280,000 metric tons of trash are turned into steam and electricity each year—powering 16,000 homes—and 8,000 metric tons of metal are recycled each year ($1.4 million worth).  

It’s great to see companies like Covanta continually strive to be as clean and efficient as they can be.

Be sure to check out the July regulatory issue of Biomass Magazine, which will likely hit desks within the next two weeks.