Ontario-based Faromor Ltd. is exploring new opportunities with farm businesses to use renewable energy as integral aspects of their operation. Its mission is to create “on farm” energy enterprises that convert high moisture organics into biogas sourced energy products. The project is currently underway near Woodstock in southwestern Ontario.
Collaborating with its sister company Stonecrest Engineering, Faromor is building a compressed natural gas fueling station and an anaerobic digestion system that will produce bio-methane. In partnership with Union Gas Limited, the company is injecting the methane into a natural gas distribution system.
“By blending biogas with natural gas we can create a new fuel market for on-farm biogas generation. We hope to build in our pricing a return to the farmers equal to or higher than from the current tariff price for electricity generation,” says Faromor President Wayne Blenkhorn in a recent interview with The Canadian Business Journal.
Biogas is a renewable methane source and the main ingredient in natural gas. It can be used for heating and cooling, or to generate electricity that can be used on-site or through a distribution grid. It can be refined into renewable natural gas that can be injected into gas pipelines or compressed and used as vehicle fuel.
Biogas is produced when organic materials, including crop residues and animal manures to municipal organic wastes and food processing by-products break down in an oxygen free environment. The process called anaerobic digestion usually occurs in a specialized tank or vessel and is the process that generates biogas or landfill gas within landfills.
Biogas on the Farm
A biogas system is an ideal fit for farms because livestock produce manure that is methane rich and creates significant quantities of biogas when mixed with off-farm organics. Farms can use the heat generated from a biogas system for barns, crop drying or greenhouses.
In Canada, biogas development is in its early stages, but the opportunities for growth are significant. Blenkhorn says a biogas fuel economy in rural Ontario will contribute to sustainable communities, and offers a range of benefits for energy utilization, environmental protection and economic development.
The company’s primary focus is to help farm businesses generate self-sufficient energy operations by converting animal and feed wastes, failed crops, crop residues and energy crops to marketable green energy products. It is also exploring alternative avenues in order to market excess energy for highest value returns, such as livestock bedding, horticultural soil enhancements, mobile fuels, peat substitutes and other products that are currently being researched rigorously.
The plan is to build biogas stations throughout rural Ontario and create a steady fuel supply. Faromor will design, construct and manage these stations. In order to get the fuel from the farm to consumers, it will act as the marketing wing for the farms.
“Others can connect to a pipeline and have natural gas fuels and benefit from those savings, but we’re making the connection that landfill sites and farming enterprises can market their gas,” Blenkhorn says. “This is the first project really of its kind in Ontario with the green connection that we bring to the industry.”
A biofuel economy is dependent upon vehicles that can process the gas. The Faromor venture is calling for up to 100 large-engine vehicles to be fueled at the station near Woodstock. In particular, the company is manufacturing farm tractors with natural gas engines. Blenkhorn adds that there is potential to fuel municipal buses and set up a portable fueling station system that could support the custom farm operator involved with the project. “Canada has been slow on the uptake primarily because the conversion of the vehicle and or availability of stations to fill up,” he says.
Although biofuel is a fledging industry in Canada, Blenkhorn is certain that the company’s expansion into the industry will be successful. This confidence comes, not only from over three decades of providing quality, in-demand natural ventilation systems to the agricultural industry, but because the fuel is gaining popularity in the U.S. and other countries. He says the Canadian public will eventually realize its significance as a renewable energy source.
He points out that some American cities require public service vehicles, such as garbage trucks, to use biofuel.
“At this stage, it is easier for us to introduce something new because we have been around for quite a long time, so we’re known. That gives you credibility when are you trying to expand your business,” Blenkhorn adds.
The company encountered a few obstacles. Some neighbors filed complaints against the project because they are worried about noise the fueling station might cause. However, Faromor conducted a study that showed there would not be enough noise to disturb the residents and businesses nearby. Due to the procedural aspects of the complaints, the company has not built the fueling station and anaerobic digestion system on site, but plans to move them to the site in the spring 2016.
A History of Natural and Sustainable Products
Since 1978, Faromor has provided natural and efficient ventilation products to the agricultural industry. Over the years, the company continued to invest in developing its products to keep up with the changing demands in technology. Today, the company’s products are considered the industry standard in natural ventilation.
Over almost four decades Blenkhorn has continued to expand operations. In 1995, he founded Stonecrest Engineering Ltd., a professional engineering and design company. Most recently, he created Faromor Energy Systems, which split off into Faromor CNG, and is currently responsible for the biogas project near Woodstock.
Faromor is known internationally for its ventilation systems, including curtain, panel, ridge ventilation, cooling and control systems. However, it provides additional innovative, renewable energy systems, such as solar panel. The company works with customers to get approval for solar panel that complies with the Ontario Power Authority Microfit Program. Faromor builds these systems with adequate domestic content to ensure they meet all required program specs and that parts and service are easily accessible.