A feasibility study authorized by the Jamestown City Council in January may be nearing completion after 10 months of repairs to the Jamestown municipal Waste Water Treatment Facility, according to Darrell Hournbuckle, project manager for Interstate Engineering.
The study will determine if the construction of a processing facility to convert waste gas produced at the treatment plant to natural gas is feasible. Costs for the project would vary depending on some of the final information of the feasibility study, but Hournbuckle 'ballparked' the costs at about $5 million.
The authorized feasibility study would determine the cost effectiveness of converting the waste gasses produced at the wastewater treatment plant into natural gas which would then be fed into the natural gas distribution system and could be used to heat homes or businesses.
"We're making progress," Hournbuckle said. "We're replacing a meter, we should know within a month."
Joe Regnery, project manager for New Phase Energy who is conducting the feasibility study, said the meter will allow more details on the chemical components of the waste gas which are necessary to determine if a conversion of the biogas to natural gas is feasible. He said in an email to The Sun Wednesday that final results of the study would be available in a few months.
The last repair at the wastewater treatment plant necessary to complete the study is replacing a meter that is original to the treatment plant and may have been failing for some time. That work is planned next week.
"It is a 22-year-old meter," Hornbuckle said. "We've just had no reason to care before this."
The meter replacement is part of over $200,000 in repairs and upgrades at the Jamestown wastewater treatment plant this year, according to Sarah Hellekson, city administrator. Hournbuckle estimates that about $50,000 of that cost was related to the feasibility study while the rest was general repairs necessary for safe and efficient plant operations, according to Ron Olson, wastewater plant operator.
Repairs are being paid for from the city's wastewater enterprise fund from collections of sewer fees on residents and businesses in Jamestown. The repairs were necessary because of the corrosive nature of the materials in the wastewater treatment plant, Olson said.
"Too much oxygen going into the waste gas," he said. "... a safety issue, an explosion risk."
Repairs involved replacing pipes and tarps in the system that handles the waste gas. With that work completed, the feasible study moves into the final stages.
"The next step is to get the final numbers," Hournbuckle said, referring to the volumes and composition of the waste gas. "Then the City Council decides if it is financially feasible to move forward."
The natural gas produced at the wastewater treatment plant would be considered green or renewable energy and would have a higher value than normal natural gas. The potential profits, if the plan is determined to be feasible and moves ahead, could be used to cover repair costs to the aging wastewater treatment plant, Hournbuckle said.
"It is a 22-year-old plant and we've already identified $10 million in upgrades and repairs," he said. "The thought process is a natural gas processing plant would help cover those costs."