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Bullfrog adds natural gas to green portfolio

Christopher Furlong/2006 Getty Images

Bullfrog Power Inc., the electricity reseller that markets clean renewable power in six provinces, is about to start selling "green" natural gas as well.

Bullfrog collects a premium price for the electricity it sells to homeowners and businesses who want to be seen as green. Although those customers continue to use power that comes off the energy grid, Bullfrog supplies the grid with an equivalent amount of power from sources such as wind and hydro.

The premium charged is used to invest in new clean power operations, and to pay higher prices to green power suppliers.

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Now that model is being applied to natural gas, Bullfrog president Tom Heintzman said. He is set to announce Tuesday that the company has signed Kraft Canada Inc. as its first customer for a pilot project in which premium-priced "green" gas will be used at the food company's Dad's Cookies manufacturing and packaging facilities in Toronto.

While Kraft will continue to use natural gas obtained from its local gas suppliers, Bullfrog will inject into the TransCanada Corp. pipeline system an equivalent amount of "green" gas collected from a landfill project near Montreal that it has established with a waste management partner.

What makes landfill gas less environmentally damaging, Mr. Heintzman said, is that it is collected from decaying organic matter that would have released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through a natural cycle – whether the landfill gas was burned or not. On the other hand, burning conventional gas gleaned from underground deposits adds CO2 to the atmosphere that would otherwise have remained sequestered.

Mr. Heintzman acknowledged that he "has to nail" his explanation so that people understand the difference. If he can get the message across, he said, "we hope we can build a market to make this popular, and if it becomes popular then it can be extended across the country."

As with its green electricity suppliers, Bullfrog's partners in the gas project "will get paid a premium, which makes their project economic and allows them to build more," Mr. Heintzman said.

Bullfrog has received an endorsement from the Pembina Institute, an environmental research group based in Alberta, which said the concept will make good use of wasted gas from landfills. "Further expansion of this product to other biogas sources promises to be an important energy solution that will help address climate change," Pembina executive director Ed Whittingham said.

Bullfrog has had to overcome skepticism about its electricity model because customers do not directly receive "clean" electricity – they are simply paying to have an equivalent amount added to the overall power grid.

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Each year Bullfrog releases an independent audit that assures customers it has acquired enough green electricity to meet its sales commitments. But as a private company, it shares no information on its revenue, profit margins or the amount of power it has supplied.

Still, the model has attracted many customers; Bullfrog says it has signed up a total of 8,000 individuals in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, along with 1,200 corporate clients.

The green gas product will take some time to gear up to the same level and will not be available to the general public until later this year, Mr. Heintzman said.

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About the Author
Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More

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