July 24, 2006

Alberta's 15th Emerald Awards recognize H2S emission technology, paint recycling program

In Edmonton last month, EnCana, Calibre Environmental and Sterling Homes were among the winners of the 15th Emerald Awards, presented by the Alberta Emerald Foundation for Environmental Excellence.

EnCana received the award in the Large Business catetory for its achievement in eliminating flaring and hydrogen sulphide (H2S) emissions at its Bantry gas processing facility. The facility is the first in the world to introduce and commercially operate a new bio-technological process that safely and efficiently removes H2S (sour gas) from natural gas streams and converts it into elemental sulfur.

This innovative technology has introduced a fresh approach to resolving the long-standing issue of H2S emissions and has enhanced stakeholder support for bio-technology alternatives, opening the door for other industry members to implement this environmentally friendly process. Since its introduction, the technology has performed beyond expectation, eliminating flaring even during facility start-up and improving sulfur recovery efficiencies with rates in excess of 99.5%. At the same time, it purifies the natural gas stream to sales specifications.

The award in the Small Business category went to Calibre Environmental, a Calgary firm, for its recycling program for industrial and commercial paint. In 2003, when Calibre Environmental began operations, most Alberta municipalities were disposing of post-consumer paints through the Swan Hills hazardous waste facility. Calibre saw an opportunity to divert this material from disposal and in September 2004 obtained a contract with the city of Calgary to process post-consumer paint. The firm began searching for alternatives for latex paints and consequently, in the first year, saved 50,000 gallons of latex paint from incineration and nearly 100 tons of metal from the landfill.

In 2005, Calibre embarked on a marketing campaign to launch 14 colours of premium-quality, 100% recycled ecocoat latex paint to the retail market. Calibre continues to improve the viability of paint recycling and hopes to be an instrumental part of a future provincial paint stewardship program.

The Climate Change award was presented to Sterling Homes in recognition of its use of a combination of proven and new technologies to achieve environmental savings at the Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks. The development consists of 52, R2000 and Built Green(tm) Alberta certified homes, each of which reduces GHG emissions by five tonnes per year, realizing 83% savings. By comparison, a typical Canadian home using natural gas produces six tonnes per year of GHG emissions.

The Drake Landing homes derive 90% of their space heating energy requirements through a unique system of 800 solar collectors that use bore-hole thermal energy storage technology. The system is the first of its kind in North America. The homes are also equipped with solar domestic hot water systems which save 60% of the energy normally required for this purpose.

Serving as a model of environmental conservation and sustainability, the residential development is a partnership of Sterling Homes, Town of Okotoks, United Communities, ATCO Gas and Natural Resources Canada.

Alberta's Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (AESA) program received the Government Institutions award in recognition of its efforts to support environmentally sustainable growth in Alberta's farm, ranch and agri-food processing industry.

The AESA program seeks out and promotes practical, effective solutions for existing challenges while assessing emerging environmental issues. With AESA funding, municipalities, producers, first nations groups, environmental organizations, agri-food processors and other agencies concerned with environmental stewardship in agriculture are finding better ways to meet industry challenges.

Currently, AESA works in partnership with 40 community-based groups delivering environmentally sustainable agriculture programs across Alberta. As a result, there is increasing awareness and action by Alberta's farm and ranching communities to improve the environment at a local level. AESA also supports water and soil quality benchmarking and monitoring, enabling future measurement of the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Dennis McKerracher, a commercial pork producer in the southern Alberta community of High River, received the Research and Innovation award for his work in increasing drinking water efficiency in commercial pork production facilities.

In a one-year demonstration project in which standard water drinkers were exchanged for ball-bite units, he proved that a commercial hog facility can make significant water savings. Use of the ball-bite water drinkers resulted in a 35% decrease in total water use, electrical savings from not having to pump the water and less manure to haul and spread. The project also minimized odour issues with neighbouring residents. Pig performance and behaviour was not affected and barn management was improved. McKerracher has since been sharing his information with industry and mentoring other pork producers as they begin to convert their water drinkers.

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