Philadelphia renewable energy plant could get green light following mediation
Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery on August 8, 2019.
Bastiaan Slabbers | WHYY

Philadelphia renewable energy plant could get green light following mediation

The plant would have the potential to turn 1,100 tons of commercial food waste from the Philadelphia region into approximately 23,000 gallons of renewable natural gas every day using anaerobic digesters.

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Plans for a renewable energy plant at a Philadelphia refinery complex may still be in the works following a court decision that clears the way for the property’s sale, reports State Impact Pennsylvania

The renewable energy plant, to be developed by RNG Energy Solutions, signed an agreement with Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) in 2017. A plan was presented to and praised by city officials in 2018, and the process of obtaining city and state permits had begun.

As proposed, the plant would have the potential to turn 1,100 tons of commercial food waste from the Philadelphia region, that otherwise would be burned or sent to landfills and incinerators, into 22,000 to 24,000 gallons of renewable natural gas every day using anaerobic digesters.

Point Breeze Renewable Energy had originally objected to the sale of the site, which is owned by PES, saying it had a lease for 23 acres there to build the $120 million biogas plant. PES argued in bankruptcy court that the Point Breeze Renewable Energy agreement had not formally started by the time the refinery operator filed for Chapter 11 in July, and that therefore the lease was not in effect.

Last week, PES, Point Breeze Renewable Energy and Hilco Redevelopment Partners, Northbrook, Illinois, agreed to terminate all previous contracts and rights held by Point Breeze in relation to the refinery site, allowing Hilco and PES to close on the sale of the property. Hilco had said it could not have entered into the purchase agreement or closed the deal if Point Breeze had a right to occupancy.

James Potter, president of RNG Energy Solutions, said the settlement approved by the bankruptcy court does not kill the biogas project.

“Point Breeze Renewable Energy has executed an agreement with Hilco where the parties agreed to negotiate a new lease agreement after Hilco closes the purchase of the refinery,” he said. Hilco has committed to negotiate a contract with his company after it closes on the purchase, which is set for May 21.

The biogas plant is getting permits from the city and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). City officials have praised the project as a needed solution to accomplish its goals of diverting food waste from landfills and incinerators and reducing emissions.

The project is projected to capture 159 metric tons of greenhouse gases per day, or the equivalent of about 400,000 miles per day driven by an average car. In addition, RNG says the project will create 450 direct and indirect construction jobs and 25 direct jobs during operations.

The company adds that the project’s renewable natural gas could be used to fuel local buses and trucks, and that the digester would also generate about 300 cubic yards of organic soil amendment similar to peat moss.

If a new lease is signed between Hilco and Point Breeze, the plan will be delayed and adjusted but will basically accomplish the same goals, Potter says. Instead of getting energy from the refinery, the biogas plant will use energy from the grid and produce thermal energy on site. The location would move “a little bit,” from the northern edge of the site toward the west, Potter adds, but it would still occupy 23 acres.