California offset program bolsters business for Grand Junction firm

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A Grand Junction company has completed only the second offset verification conducted under a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in California.

Ruby Canyon Engineering is in the process of completing verifications for seven other offset projects that either destroy such ozone-depleting substances as refrigerants or capture and destroy methane from livestock operations.

The company also is involved in developing protocols for verifying mine methane capture projects, in effect helping to create another market the firm will serve, said Michael Cote, president of Ruby Canyon Engineering.

In the process, business and staffing has grown since Cote and Ronald Collings founded Ruby Canyon Engineering in 2005. The company now employs nine people, five who work in Grand Junction.

As part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, California has imposed a cap on emissions, starting this year with electric utilities and large industrial facilities. The program also allows for the purchase of credits to offset up to 8 percent of emissions, but those offsets must be independently verified.

Ruby Canyon Engineering is among the firms that have been accredited to verify those offsets.

In 2009, Ruby Canyon Engineering was the first firm in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region to earn American National Standards Institution accreditation for third-party greenhouse gas validation and verification. In addition, five members of the staff have completed training under the offset program in California.

In the case of its first verification project in California, Ruby Canyon Engineering evaluated the operation of a facility destroying refrigerants taken out of automobiles, Cote said. The firm verified the refrigerants were destroyed and the quantity involved. The state issued credits to offset emissions elsewhere.

Ruby Canyon Engineering is in the process of completing verifications for three more offset projects that destroy ozone-depleting substances and four projects that capture and destroy methane gas from dairies and other livestock operations, Cote said.

The methane projects typically involve treating a mixture of manure and water in what’s called a biodigester. The resulting methane gas is captured and either used or burned, he said.

Cote expects Ruby Canyon Engineering to soon be involved in yet another type of offset project in California involving capturing methane from mines. The firm has helped the state develop verification protocols for those projects.

Cote once expected a national cap-and-trade program would be enacted as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions believed to cause global warming. While that hasn’t happened, the company has been able to take advantage of programs in California, Massachusetts and Canada as well as voluntary efforts, he said.