Regulatory requirements for regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities
This document provides a description of the requirements in Ontario Regulation 267/03 for designing and operating an on-farm regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facility.
Chapter 1. Introduction
Section 1.1. Preamble
This document provides a plain language description of the requirements in Ontario Regulation 267/03 - General (O. Reg. 267/03) made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 (NMA) for designing and operating an on-farm regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facility or RMADF. This type of facility combines different materials containing nutrients including manure, other farm-based materials, and off-farm materials for the purpose of producing methane. These feedstock materials are referred to as anaerobic digestion (AD) materials, meaning materials that are intended for treatment in a mixed anaerobic digestion facility, whether the materials are generated at the agricultural operation or received at the agricultural operation from another location.
(see s. 1. (1) "anaerobic digestion materials", "regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facility", O. Reg. 267/03).
Amendments to O. Reg. 267/03 came into effect on July 1, 2021. These amendments resulted in more opportunities for agricultural producers to treat manure and other on-farm AD materials along with larger quantities and additional types of off-farm AD materials under the NMA and allow for the increased production of biogas for the renewable natural gas market. This document has been updated to take into account these amendments.
Section 1.2. Nutrient management disclaimer
The document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon to determine legal obligations. To determine your legal obligations, consult the relevant law at www.e-laws.gov.on.ca. If legal advice is required, consult a legal professional. In the event of an error in this document or a conflict between this document and any applicable law, the law prevails.
This document is based on O. Reg. 267/03 as of July 1, 2021.
Section 1.3. Introduction to the Anaerobic Digestion (AD) process
The AD process is the decomposition of organic matter in an oxygen limiting environment. AD produces methane gas, which can be used to create an energy product (heat, electricity or natural gas). AD of farm materials is beneficial to the environment because it provides farmers with a renewable energy source, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces odours and pathogens in the input materials.
Adding certain off-farm materials to an on-farm anaerobic digestion facility can make the digestion process more efficient and increase the amount of methane generated. The AD process produces an effluent material called digestate (referred to as anaerobic digestion output or AD output in O. Reg. 267/03) that has similar nutrient content as the feed material, but with less odour and fewer pathogens. If it meets applicable regulatory requirements, this material can be applied to land as a nutrient-rich organic material that benefits soil and crop growth.
(see s. 1 (1) "anaerobic digestion output", O. Reg. 267/03).
Section 1.4. Approvals required for managing off-Farm wastes at an AD facility on a farm
Often an important part of managing an on-farm anaerobic digestion facility is receiving off-farm materials, which in some cases may be considered waste. An AD facility located at an agricultural operation that treats both on-farm and off-farm materials may be subject to regulation under either the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 or the Environmental Protection Act, 1990. Unless exempt, an AD facility that receives and treats waste must have a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) under the EPA if generating electricity or an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) under Part V of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). An RMADF that meets the requirements of O. Reg. 267/03 is exempt from the requirement for a REA or ECA.
Some AD facilities only treat on-farm materials. O. Reg. 267/03 does not regulate an AD facility that treats only on-farm anaerobic digestion materials. If the AD facility is treating only on-farm anaerobic digestion materials and all of those materials also meet the definition of "agricultural waste" as defined in Reg. 347 made under the EPA, an ECA would not be required for the processing of the waste.
In 2021, amendments were made to O. Reg. 267/03 to enable RMADFs to receive more than 10,000 cubic metres of off-farm AD material in a 12 month period, and to receive certain source separated organic (SSO) material (further defined in Section 4.5 of this document). Unique rules which apply to these types of RMADFs will be highlighted throughout this document.