On first glance at today’s headline, you might be scratching your head. “Why would we want to boost production of methane gas from landfills? Isn’t it a potent greenhouse gas?” It is… but, despite what many of us may have thought (myself included), most landfills don’t produce enough methane to make these waste-to-energy systems affordable and profitable. In order to keep it out of the atmosphere, landfill owners simply burn, or “flare,” the methane.
University of Texas at El Paso chemistry professor Russell Chianelli has devised a process to bump up the production of methane gas to levels that would make economic sense for electricity production. According to a release from UTEP:
The patented process involves capturing and recycling the exhaust gas that’s produced from generating electricity with landfill methane. The gas can be used to heat the landfill and to provide additional moisture — conditions that can boost the landfill’s overall methane production. Carbon dioxide found within the captured exhaust gas will also release additional methane once recycled within the landfill.
But wait – there’s more! Chianelli’s process also involves diverting part of the gas produced to algae production… which, in turn, would produce more methane. The professor notes “What makes the methane in landfills are the organisms that are feeding on decomposing waste. So what we need to do is feed them even more for more methane production.” So, half of the algae cultivated would be pumped into the landfill to produce more methane; the other half would be used to produced biofuel.
Lots to digest here: on the surface, it certainly makes sense. I’d have to wonder about the potential for increased gas escape, though. If you’re more versed in the science of such things than I am, and see an issue, share it with us.
In other waste biz news this week:
Rhode Island considering extended producer responsibility for packaging: Two bills in the Rhode Island legislature would make the Ocean State the first in the US to establish extended producer responsibility for packaging waste. (via Waste Dive)
Mobile cooking oil-to-biodiesel processing raises $1 million in funding: Twin Cities-based Revolution Fuels would make biodiesel on-site at restaurants and other establishments with waste cooking oil on hand. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the start-up just raised an additional $1 million in funding. (via Waste Dive)
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Enviro Equipment, Inc.
I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to simply to capture the little bit of methane generated by landfills and diverted into the storage system. Once a sufficient amount is stored they could then be sold at market prices.