Innovation in action: Environmental highlights

Natural resources and green spaces are precious to every community, and we know that the way we care for the air, land and water matters to everyone. At Enbridge, we take responsibility to the environment seriously.

Solar farm worker among solar panels
Protection of the environment, and safety of people, will always be our top priority, and our projects and operations are designed to have minimal impact on the environment.

Protection of the environment, and safety of people, will always be our top priority, and our projects and operations are designed to have minimal impact on the environment. We also invest in programs that promote environmental stewardship, conservation, habitat remediation and environmental education.

And beyond that, we invest in innovation that enhances our stewardship, reduces our energy usage and delivers cleaner energy—including energy from renewable sources—to power homes and businesses.

The year 2020 saw a number of renewable energy production and transportation initiatives across the Enbridge enterprise, as well as innovations that reduce the environmental impact of ongoing operations.

  • The 2.25-MW Lambertville Solar Project and the 2.5-MW Heidlersburg Solar Project, the first such endeavors of their kind, will use renewable energy to help “green” our transportation of natural gas (already a lower-carbon energy source) through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, collectively taking the equivalent of 28,450 cars off the road at the same time.
  • Similarly, Alberta Solar One, a 10.5-MW solar farm, will supply a portion of our Canadian Mainline crude oil and liquids pipeline network’s power requirements with renewable power.
  • Enbridge Gas Inc. announced a $5.2-million project to blend renewable hydrogen gas into its distribution network to green the natural gas grid.
  • Groundbreaking took place on Ontario’s largest renewable natural gas (RNG) plant, and investment was announced in a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Alberta that will use thermal hydrolysis to convert agricultural and farming waste to RNG.
  • New technologies improve the combustion efficiency of natural gas compressors, reducing the energy impact of gas transportation.
  • The data volume and accuracy collected by our next generation inline crack inspection tool is reducing the ground disturbance and energy usage associated with our preventative maintenance program.

In the future, we are looking at how unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) may provide our environmental inspection teams with a new perspective on data gathering and site inspections—and which functions we might be able to perform using this platform, potentially reducing fuel usage and ground disturbance associated with inspections currently performed at ground level.

In short, environmental innovation will help power our future.

Case studies

Renewables + natural gas = A lower-carbon future

In November 2020, Enbridge was among the first energy companies to make a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. As a leader in North American energy infrastructure, we have an important role to play in providing access to cleaner energy.

That role involves contributing to greenhouse gas emission reductions goals and seeking new and improved ways to deliver energy safely, responsibly and sustainably.

 A cornerstone of our “net-zero by 2050” pledge is taking action to decarbonize our own energy use—reducing the emissions intensity of our operations through solar self-power projects.

This isn’t just a vague promise. It’s already happening—in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in Alberta.

Lambertville

In October 2020, the 2.25-MW Lambertville Solar Project entered service in West Amwell, NJ. The Lambertville solar farm now provides solar energy to Enbridge’s Lambertville Compressor Station—offsetting a portion of the station’s electric load, and helping power compressor units that keep natural gas flowing to homes and businesses via Enbridge’s gas transmission pipeline network.

Enbridge’s solar self-power approach to greening pipeline operations further demonstrates the promising nature of a gas-renewables partnership as part of an affordable, reliable, lower-carbon future. As an abundant, low-cost, clean-burning source of energy, natural gas already complements a larger-scale deployment of weather-dependent renewables.

“This groundbreaking project brings together natural gas and renewables, working together to deliver energy in a more sustainable manner,” notes Caitlin Tessin, Enbridge’s Director of Market Innovation. “This project will help pave the way for our natural gas pipeline operations to be even more environmentally focused, and further solidify Enbridge’s role as an industry leader in a sustainable lower-carbon reality.”

Heidlersburg

Similarly, in Tyrone Township, PA, work is underway on the 2.5-MW Heidlersburg Solar Project—which, when it enters service in the spring of 2021, will also help to power compressor units along our cross-continent Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline.

The Heidlersburg Solar Project is expected to reduce GHG emissions by 73,200 metric tons over the 25-year life of the facility—or the equivalent of taking 15,810 cars off the road. Together, the Heidlersburg and Lambertville facilities will reduce GHG emissions by nearly 131,700 metric tons over their 25-year life—which equates to removing 28,450 cars from the road.

“Renewable energy projects like this one must be part of the long-term answer to solve our energy and environment equation,” says Mike Butler, mid-Atlantic Director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, “and natural gas is critical to ensuring that we are able to arrive at a sustainable energy future while meeting demand without increasing energy costs for families and small businesses.”

Alberta Solar One

Meanwhile, in Alberta, construction is well underway on Enbridge’s first solar generation facility in the Canadian province. The 10.5-MW Alberta Solar One project will supply a portion of our Canadian Mainline crude oil and liquids pipeline network’s power requirements. 

“Enbridge is a leader in the energy transition, and is undertaking projects across our system to green our operations and reduce our carbon intensity,” notes Veenu Narula, Enbridge's Vice President of Power Business Development.

Once ABS1 achieves commercial operations in April 2021, the facility will supply the energy equivalent to power 3,000 homes, offsetting about 12,000 tonnes of carbon annually.

Lambertville solar project in New Jersey 
Alberta Solar One project as sketched by an artist 
At top, the Lambertville Solar Project entered service in October 2020. Above, an artist's rendition of Alberta Solar One, which is expected to be operational by April 2021.
Cows in front of a biogas facility 
RNG is created from the gases released when organic waste decomposes. RNG is carbon neutral; it helps manage waste, reduces carbon emissions in a cost-effective manner, fights climate change and even offers farmers a new stream of revenue. Click on the image above to watch an Enbridge Gas video on RNG.

Letting nothing go to waste’: Incorporating RNG into the energy mix

What’s that smell? Why, it’s innovation!

Renewable natural gas (RNG) is an increasingly important part of Enbridge Gas Inc.’s transition to lower-carbon, sustainable energy solutions.

Also known as biomethane or upgraded biogas, RNG is created from the gases released when organic waste decomposes. RNG is carbon neutral. It helps manage waste, reduces carbon emissions in a cost-effective manner, fights climate change and even offers farmers a new stream of revenue.

RNG can also be transported in existing natural gas infrastructure—and it has an abundance of supply options, including organic waste, landfill gas, agricultural sources (e.g. animal manure) and wastewater treatment. If just 10% of Canada’s potential were harnessed, RNG could help heat up to a million homes a year.

In 2020, Ontario-based Enbridge Gas celebrated the groundbreaking of the province's largest RNG plant, and just weeks later announced the investment in a first-of-its-kind RNG project in Alberta that uses a unique technology called thermal hydrolysis to process agricultural and livestock farming waste.

Projects like these will create much-needed supply streams for Enbridge Gas’ new voluntary RNG pilot project, which is expected to contribute enough RNG to the system to heat more than 400 homes and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 1,750 tonnes a year. Enbridge Gas is also exploring other municipal opportunities, as well as additional projects with private companies interested in creating RNG for sale as system gas. 

There is already strong interest in RNG from both Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, municipalities are keen to harness the latent energy potential of landfills and other waste management programs to create fuel for RNG-powered waste disposal trucks and transit vehicles, in addition to heating needs.

In Quebec, Enbridge Gas’s Gatineau-based affiliate Gazifère is embracing RNG as key to reaching its goal of becoming the first natural gas utility in North America to be 100% green before 2050. Gazifère has launched a voluntary RNG program that offers customers the opportunity to increase the amount of RNG they pay for—up to 100% of their consumption. Gazifère is also focused on enabling new sources of local production, looking ahead to a time when RNG production in Quebec can incorporate second-generation sources such as wood waste.

Going deep to harness geothermal’s potential

Enbridge Gas Inc., North America’s largest gas utility by volume, is making investments in multiple markets to accelerate the shift toward lower-carbon, sustainable energy solutions while continuing to meet the demand for safe, reliable and affordable energy.

One such option is harnessing geothermal energy through geoexchange, or ground source heat pump (GSHP), systems.

Geoexchange is a clean and ultra-efficient renewable energy technology that works using heat pump technology, much like that which powers your refrigerator. These high-efficiency systems drive a reversible vapor compression cycle (VPC) that can provide heating or cooling through a single appliance and can deliver efficiencies as high as 500% by leveraging the constant temperature of the earth.

While geothermal systems have been in use in North America for more than 40 years, they have remained a niche energy source. Enbridge Gas is working to expand geothermal’s applications through a three-year pilot program in Innisfil, Ontario—working to build geothermal heating systems into its service offerings for single-family homes, commercial high-rise buildings, schools and other scenarios.

Results from the pilot have shown an approximately 25% reduction in energy-related costs associated with heating, cooling and hot water generation—and verified efficiencies of up to 380% (or a 3.8 coefficient of performance), making them the most efficient heating and cooling system on the market.

Infographic on geothermal heating 
A home geothermal system in action. Click on the image to see a larger version of this Enbridge Gas infographic.
Hydrogen storage tank 
Infographic explaining the power to gas process 
Top, Enbridge Gas announced a first-of-its-kind hydrogen blending project in November 2020. Above, the power-to-gas process. Click on the image to see a larger version of this infographic.

‘Greening’ the grid with renewable hydrogen gas

Hydrogen gas is not just colorless, odorless and non-toxic—it’s also an effective tool in the shift toward sustainable energy.

Hydrogen, like electricity, is an energy carrier; and although not in itself a direct source of energy, hydrogen has considerable potential in energy transportation and storage, the core focus of Enbridge’s business.

Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are important parts of the energy transition, but the energy they supply is intermittent and not always produced when needed. Power-to-Gas (PtG) technology enables these sources of energy to become dispatchable, meaning they can produce and store power at any time for future use.

The electricity from these renewable sources can be used for hydrogen production. PtG technology, as used by Enbridge Gas’s Markham Energy Storage Facility in Markham, ON, uses electricity to split water into its basic components of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen produced is used as an energy carrier, and can be blended into the existing gas grid to lower its carbon footprint—and, in doing so, green the gas grid.

In a trailblazing partnership with Cummins Inc. (formerly Hydrogenics), Enbridge Gas announced in November 2020 that it has been given approval by the provincial energy regulator (the Ontario Energy Board) to undertake a $5.2-million pilot project which will blend up to 2% renewable hydrogen gas into a portion of the existing Enbridge Gas natural gas network for approximately 3,600 customers. In doing so, the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to these customers by abating up to 117 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year from the atmosphere.

The project is the first of its kind in North America, and represents an important step in greening the gas supply that millions of Ontario homeowners and businesses depend on to heat their homes and energize industry.

Renewable hydrogen is produced using high-efficiency electrolyzers at Enbridge’s utility-scale PtG facility in Markham. The plant is currently being used as a rapid-response system to help balance the electricity supply and demand for the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

The blending facility will validate the use of existing natural gas pipelines as an effective solution to the challenge of storing the province’s surplus electrical energy.

If successful, the project will help Enbridge Gas pursue additional and larger-scale hydrogen blending activities in other parts of its distribution system.