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Heat from raw sewage warms Winter Games Athletes Village in Vancouver

Using sewage to generate heating energy for buildings is now a reality in Vancouver. The $30-million False Cre...


Southeast False Creek Energy Centre below Cambie Bridge, Vancouver
Southeast False Creek Energy Centre below Cambie Bridge, Vancouver

Using sewage to generate heating energy for buildings is now a reality in Vancouver. The $30-million False Creek Energy Centre began operating last week, in time to provide heat and hot water for the Olympic Village, which will accommodate the athletes for the Winter Games that start next month.

Sandwell Engineering and FVB Energy designed the utility system, which is the first in North America to recover heat from raw sewage in an urban setting. There are two plants in Europe that also use untreated sewage for heat recovery, but most heat recovery plants  use treated sewage.  However, the sewae treatment plants are generally located far away from the urban centres where the heat is needed.

In Vancouver, the raw sewage is pumped into a heat recovery plant under the Cambie Street Bridge, then after the energy has been recovered, it is sent on to Richmond for treatment. 

Ray Tarnai, the project engineer with Sandwell Engineering, says that using raw sewage is much more challenging than using clean treated sewage for heat recovery. They have to use several new technologies to screen the raw material and clean it to a level where it can pass through the heat exchanger equipment.

At present the False Creek plant is operating at around 30% capacity, but it will eventually supply the energy for water and space heating for 16,000 residents in an area along Second Avenue from Cambie to Main.

The utility project was developed by the City of Vancouver, with $9.5 million from the federal gas tax fund, and $5 million from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund.