Landfill gas (LFG) provides power for one million homes and heat for 737,000 homes across the country. It provides 14 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 102 billion cu. ft. of LFG for direct use by industry. It contributes to the nation’s supply of natural gas and clean-burning fuel for vehicles.
The environmental benefits of these LFG uses are huge. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the use of LFG reduced the consumption of oil in the United States by about 229 million barrels of oil last year.
Using LFG also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. EPA says that landfills rank as the third-largest human-generated source of methane emissions in the United States. Among greenhouse gases, methane, the fuel component of LFG, is one of the most potent. For instance, it is 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
The EPA also estimates that a typical LFG energy project collects and uses 60 to 90 percent of the methane emitted by a landfill.
Thanks to the environmental benefits of putting LFG to use, landfill-gas-to-energy has begun to emerge as a renewable energy industry.
Consider the landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) project at the Newton County Landfill in Brook, Ind., for example. There, LFG is helping to manufacture egg cartons.
One of the largest landfills in the country, Newton County, owned by Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc., receives nearly 2.7 million tons of trash per year. Recently, the landfill began sending LFG to the neighboring Newton County Renewable Energy Park through a 2,500-foot pipeline.
At the industrial park, Canadian firm Urban Forest Recyclers Inc. (UFR) of Swift Current, Sask., manufactures packaging, such as egg cartons, from recycled fiber. The process blends mixed newsprint and cardboard into a slurry that is poured into molds. The LFG fuels the system of blowers used to dry the molds.
UFR is the industrial park’s first tenant. “As the park attracts tenants, we plan to use the gas to generate more green power,” says William Held, senior director, renewable energy with Republic.
Republic’s partners on the project include Middletown, N.Y.-based Cornerstone Environmental Group LLC, which engineered the LFG collection system and the pipeline, and Lafayette, La.-based CPL Systems, which designed and built the gas processing plant that conditions the gas. The CPL system can accommodate gas flows of 2,000 to 16,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) to process more gas as the park leases to more companies.
Future tenants might use the gas to generate electricity to power manufacturing equipment just as UFR does. Others might use it to power lighting or to generate hot water. These uses have become common since LFGTE projects began to proliferate in the early 1990s.