“First of its kind” wastewater-to-RNG project celebrated in New York
DEP and National Grid were joined by New York City Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, EPA Region 2 Administrator Lisa Garcia, elected officials and community members last week.
The project, a first of its kind, is producing a reliable source of clean, renewable energy, reducing the amount of organic waste sent to landfills, and is already improving air quality, according to NYC.
The process starts with food scraps collected from sources including schools and the curbside organics programme in Queens run by the Department of Sanitation.
That organic material is further refined at Waste Management’s Brooklyn CORe plant, before being added to wastewater in Newtown Creek’s "digester eggs".
The eggs, which act much like a human stomach, break down all the material.
The digestion results in biogas and biosolids, which can then be used for fertiliser and ground cover.
Each year, the Newtown Creek plant produces more than 500 million cubic feet of biogas.
For many years, DEP has reused approximately 40% of the biogas produced at the plant in the boilers that provide heat to the buildings and digester eggs. The project with National Grid ensures that essentially 100% of the biogas now goes to beneficial reuse.
Emission reductions for this project will come from replacing fossil natural gas with renewable natural gas, reducing on-site flaring, avoiding methane emissions from landfilled organic material and reducing truck traffic to move that material to distant landfills.
Taken together, the initiatives have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90,000 metric tons of CO2 a year, according to NYC.
The collaborative endeavour has the potential to produce enough renewable energy to heat nearly 5,200 homes in Brooklyn and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90,000 metric tons—the equivalent of removing nearly 19,000 cars from the road per year or growing 1.5 million trees for 10 years.
With this biogas-to-grid project now online, the Newtown Creek plant becomes the first of DEP’s wastewater resource recovery facilities to achieve 100 percent beneficial reuse of its biogas year-round. DEP is identifying solutions to achieve the goal of 100% beneficial reuse of the biogas at each of the 14 WRRFs in New York City, it said.
“Making our organic waste work for NYC and diverting it from landfill is critical to building a more sustainable city,” said Joshi. “At our Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility we are maximising the benefits of the City’s historic curbside organics programme converting leaf lawn and food scraps into home heat and many more beneficial uses.”
“The Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility serves as a model on how to use innovative solutions to reduce our emissions," said NYS Senator Kristen Gonzalez.
“When food scraps get sent to landfills, they produce a significant amount of noxious gases, further accelerating an already deepening climate crisis. Furthermore, sending food waste to out-of-state landfills is expensive and is often harmful to environmental justice communities that shoulder disproportionate impacts. By using our food scraps to heat and power homes in the area, the Newtown Creek Facility is reducing the use of landfills and providing sustainable energy, all while creating rich soil! I will continue to support this facility as its footprint expands in my district and I hope its leadership can serve as a model for similar sites around New York and beyond.”