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Latest Trends in the Landfill Gas Energy Industry

Latest Trends in the Landfill Gas Energy Industry

Latest Trends in the Landfill Gas Energy Industry   Opening SWANA’s 41st Annual Landfill Gas & Biogas Symposium, held in Denver, Colorado in March, 2018, Kirsten Cappel from the EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program outlined the latest trends in the landfill gas energy industry and provided some background information about the EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP). The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is a voluntary program that was established by the EPA in 1994 to encourage partnerships between landfill owners and managers and entities such as municipalities, state, energy providers and consumers, as well as the LFG industry and their associated communities. The aim of the program is to reduce or prevent methane emissions from landfill sites by promoting the recovery of the natural gas produced as organic matter decomposes in anaerobic conditions, and the recovered biogas to be used to as a source of energy. As of February 2018, LMOP consisted of more than 1100 Partnerships, with 632 landfill gas energy projects in 49 states or territories that collectively delivered an estimated 98 billion cubic feet of biogas, producing 17 billion kilowatt hours of energy. These landfill gas energy projects include various types of energy conversions, including electricity generation (469), direct use (117), high BTU, including pipeline injection-to-vehicle fuel(40), and vehicle fuel for local use onsite only (6). There have been several recent developments in the US solid waste management industry, notably: • Expansion of landfill gas energy projects • Conversion of biogas to vehicle fuel • Improved management of organic waste

Landfill Gas Energy Projects

While there have been fewer new landfill gas energy project developments coming online in recent years, output at existing LFG projects has increased substantially. Output from electricity generating landfill gas energy projects reflects a 160% increase over ten years, rising from 1,325 MW in 2007 to 2,138MW in 2017, while High Btu LFG projects supplying pipelines and vehicles has seen a 230% increase over the same time-frame, rising from 55,042 scfm in 2007 to 127,763 scfm inn 2017. There are several reasons why the development of new landfill gas energy projects has slowed down in recent years. This can partly be attributed to economical reasons, for example lower natural gas prices and lower electricity rates, together with the tax credit associated with renewable electricity production now having expired. But there are other reasons too, for example challenges associated with obtaining necessary permits, logistical problems associated with interconnection and implementing gas quality control measures on site. There is also some uncertainty about the sustainability of source material to produce LFG due to the increase in organic waste diversion initiatives as a waste management solution.

Landfill Gas to Vehicle Fuel

Interest in LFG to vehicle fuel has shown tremendous growth, increasing from just 5 projects in 2007 to 40 in 2017, 6 of which provide vehicle fuel for onsite use with 34 supply high Btu pipeline projects supplying fuel for vehicles at the other end of the pipeline. This growth can largely be attributed to incentives for using renewable low carbon fuels, and a move towards more sustainable transportation options by corporate and municipal fleet managers in an effort to reduce GHG emissions and air pollutants. There are also cost savings associated with using LFG vehicle fuels compared to petroleum based alternatives.

Organic Waste Management

Both states and municipalities are increasingly promoting organic waste diversion initiatives to keep organic waste out of landfills. While this has several benefits, including freeing up valuable space on landfills and therefore extending the life of the landfill, and reducing the amount of leachate generated by the landfill, it also has the potential to negatively impact landfill gas energy projects that rely on organic waste to generate LFG produced as the organic material breaks down in the landfill. It is important that operators of landfill gas analyzer energy projects and their partners keep abreast of organic waste management trends, and that they have a clear understanding of how these trends may potentially impact current and future landfill gas energy projects. To find out more about the LMOP Partnership visit the EPA’s LMOP website -- http://epa.gov/lmop/join-landfill-methane-outreach-program  
Featured Image: A landfill gas plant operator checks the pressure on the landfill gas processing module at the Anchorage Landfill, that cleans and dries the landfill gas before it is sent to the plant. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson).
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