Volume 27, number 1, June 2013

Natural gas: A natural ally in sustainable development

Early in 2013, Gaz Métro published its Sustainable Development Roadmap, which describes its major energy projects, along with its orientations for 2013-2017. This therefore seems to be an ideal occasion for an update on the company’s achievements, as well as on its customers’ projects. In fact, over the last 13 years, the various financial assistance programs offered by Gaz Métro have enabled natural gas users to save energy and reduce their environmental footprint.

The results of these energy projects, both internal and external, illustrate the advantages of natural gas in achieving sustainable development objectives.

Setting an example by taking concrete steps

Gaz Métro integrates its environmental concerns into all its daily activities. Here are a few examples:

Its environmental management system is certified ISO 14001, the standard established by the International Standards Organization in 1996. Gaz Métro was the first natural gas utility in Canada to obtain this certification. This standard enables companies to structure their environmental management practices based on clearly defined objectives and policies. Some of the indicators that Gaz Métro analyzes, measures and monitors include the consumption of water and energy at its Head Office and business offices, the recycling of residual materials, etc.

The renovations to its Head Office in 2004 earned Gaz Métro LEED-CI Silver certification, which is awarded when improvements made to the interior of a commercial building meet high environmental and energy standards. An article about this project can be found in the Informa-TECH bulletin published in June 2009.

Lastly, a part of the vehicles in Gaz Métro’s fleet will be replaced by ones that run on natural gas, thereby reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 25% in the transportation sector alone.

The above measures show that Gaz Métro is taking concrete steps to reduce its environmental footprint.

Energy Efficiency Plan yields spectacular results

The Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP) comprises a group of financial assistance programs that support Gaz Métro customers in carrying out cost-effective, efficient projects. Since 2000, more than 86,000 customers have benefitted from these programs and have reduced their GHG emissions by 578,000 tonnes.

Over the last five years, an average of 1,300,000 cubic metres of natural gas has been saved in the residential market. These savings, which represent a reduction of about 2,470 tonnes of GHGs per year, were achieved mostly through the installation of thermostats and high-efficiency heating appliances.

In the commercial, institutional and industrial market, more than 65,000,000 cubic metres of natural gas have been saved over the last five years. The great diversity of the projects shows the ingenuity of participants from this sector. More than half of the savings stemmed from the installation of high-efficiency appliances for heating and for producing hot water: infrared units, efficient boilers and water heaters. However, it is unlikely that simply modernizing heating appliances was responsible for the reduction in GHGs; the implementation of energy-saving measures helped reduce them further. Here are some popular measures that contributed to improving the energy performance of buildings:

  • Control system for heating and ventilation;
  • Heat recovery system to warm space, ventilation air, or produce hot water;
  • Improvement to building envelope, insulation of heating piping and hot water tank;
  • Adjustment to heating and ventilation based on the building’s real needs.

Finally, in the major industries market, it is estimated that 20,000,000 cubic metres of natural gas have been saved on average each year thanks, in large part, to the implementation of energy-saving measures. Generally, the improvement in energy performance enabled industrial firms to increase production while reducing their GHGs emissions. Improvements to process controls, to the steam network, to the insulation of piping or the hot water reservoir, as well as the recovery of heat to pre-heat ventilation air or process water, are some examples of the measures implemented. Natural gas is not an impediment to the achievement of ambitious sustainable development objectives – on the contrary, it is part of the solution! The remarkable results of the various financial assistance programs are proof of that.

Converting to natural gas – another way of reducing footprints

The extension of the natural gas distribution network to new municipalities means that industries, businesses and institutions can convert their appliances to natural gas and move away from heavy or light fuel oil – sometimes even coal.

Even before the implementation of energy-saving measures, such as those described above, simply converting from heavy fuel oil leads to a 30% reduction in GHGs. Also, converting to natural gas means eliminating practically all emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) particles. For example, the extension of the network to Thetford Mines and to Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu helped reduce GHGs by more than 11,000 tonnes.

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Using natural gas as a fuel – a solution for reducing GHG emissions

Transportation is the largest emitter of GHGs (43.5 % of all emissions in Québec). Naturally, natural gas is part of the solution, in particular by substituting heavy-duty vehicles that run on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Between now and the end of 2013, Transport Robert, one of the largest road transport firms in Canada, will have reduced its GHG emissions by 9,000 tonnes by acquiring 180 Peterbilt trucks that integrate Westport HD systems and run on natural gas. These trucks will be used on the Québec-Montréal-Toronto corridor and their refuelling will be handled by Gaz Métro Transport Solutions. Basically, every vehicle converted results in 25% less GHGs being emitted. Other projects for marine and rail transportation are already under study.

This was a brief outline of some initiatives taken by Gaz Métro, its customers and partners with the aim of undertaking projects that promote sustainable development. By including natural gas in the equation, the results not only speak for themselves, they encourage going forward in the same direction to create a greener environment – thanks to blue energy!

Marie-Joëlle Lainé, Eng.
DATECH Group, Gaz Métro