The City of Williams Lake is currently engaging with a B.C. based developer to develop North America’s first commercial-scale wood gasification to renewable natural gas plant.

The news was announced by Mayor Walt Cobb at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

“We are always looking for ways to make sure that our industrial sites are going to be operational into the long-term, and so this developer came along and it sounded like something that would be a good transition plan specifically for Atlantic Power,” Economic Development Officer, Beth Veenkamp told MyCaribooNow. “So we pursued a relationship with them to get all the players to the table.”

Staff according to the City have been successful in working with the developer, Transition Energy Inc., to establish an agreement with Fortis BC as end customer as well as with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development to provide fiber availability options that would be required to provide fuel supply for the renewable natural gas plant.

Talks are currently underway with Atlantic Power to potentially co-locate the facility on the site of its Williams Lake biomass power plant.

“It’s far out before we’re going to see any shovels in the ground and so the next phase which is a really important phase is to go into the development and start looking at the size of the site and then working on the technology,” Veenkamp says. “The important part is that the technology is proven. It’s based on a technology that was operational in Sweden; the problem in Sweden is they ran out of wood fiber and so they weren’t able to keep the plant operational, and so they’re basically taking that idea and bringing it to North America. Because the Cariboo Region we’re known to have so much fiber here they approached us and we’ve been running with it.”

Veenkamp adds the great thing about this project is the projections on the amount of fiber that they need is significantly less than what Atlantic Power is currently using.

“So when we’re looking to transition and still keeping that site viable, we got to be able to do more with less,” Veenkamp says. “We know there’s going to be less in the future and so we have to start planning and tacking in that direction.”

Although Veenkamp says she cannot speak for Atlantic Power when asked if the project will impact the burning of rail ties, she said they hope that this sets Atlantic Power in a different kind of course.

“They’re experiencing fiber decline within their business operations as well and so this presents an alternative for them,” Veenkamp says. “We have to really go back to the developer now. It’s on the developer to come along and say this is the specs, this is how much it’s going to cost, how are we going to fund it, and so we’re going into the feasibility study stage of it, but the idea here is that we know there’s going to be less fiber available in the future and how do we keep our industrial sites operational in Williams Lake because they’re really important to us-they’re our biggest taxpayers.”

The proposed wood gasification project is estimated to cost between $50 to $65 million.

“This is a very interesting project that could have great potential as the fiber supply situation in the Williams Lake area becomes clearer,” said Nick Galotti, Senior Vice President of Operations for Atlantic Power Corporation. “Finding new ways to be good stewards of the environment and our limited natural resources is something that is always on our radar. This has been the focus of our Williams Lake operation for many years.”