Innovation Award for Sustainability

The King County Innovation Awards – part of the Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards – seek to honor employees and teams whose projects, improvements, and ingenuity deliver exceptional, measurable results. These honorees have considered challenges within their delivery of services to King County residents, and developed solutions that address an important need. They also met each challenge in a creative and forward-thinking manner that reflects our True North values.

The Innovation Award for Sustainability went to the Biogas Optimization Team at the South Wastewater Treatment Plant. The team strategically allocated limited resources to increase the life and capacity of a system that produces biogas.

Biogas is a waste byproduct of wastewater treatment, and the South Plant has been converting biogas to renewable natural gas and injecting it into the local natural gas pipeline for more than 30 years. Renewable natural gas is less expensive and less polluting than fossil-fuel natural gas.

The South Plant converts biogas to renewable natural gas through a process called scrubbing. The plant’s biogas scrubbing system is aging, and parts of it needed urgent repairs. According to Rachel Brombaugh, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives, “It is the longest-operating system for converting wastewater biogas to pipeline-quality renewable natural gas in the country.” The County looked at replacing the system but found it would cost tens of millions of dollars.

With the support of the Wastewater Treatment Division capital team, staff at the South Plant identified cost-effective improvements that focused on repairing the scrubbing tower and re-building gas-compression equipment. “These improvements were made at a fraction of the cost of a new scrubbing system, and they increased gas production and revenues,” Brombaugh stated.

Due to pandemic restrictions, awards this year were presented virtually. Watch this video to see the award presentation and learn how South Plant and associated staff found cost-effective ways to repair an aging scrubbing system.

Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards series

The Innovation Awards are part of the Executive’s Performance Excellence Awards series, honoring employees and workgroups at King County for their exceptional contributions to performance, leadership, and innovation.

“As we build a best-run government at King County, these awards recognize individuals and teams who have gone above and beyond to look at how they can do things differently to better serve our customers and employees,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Learn more about the King County Performance Excellence Awards