Landfill Gas – A Green Energy Source

Capital Region Service Commission’s Solid Waste Division (SWD) strives to be good stewards of the environment in all aspects of its business. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its Landfill Gas Utilization Plant (LGUP).

This green project takes the harmful greenhouse gas methane – produced from decomposing garbage in the landfill – and turns it into a green renewable energy source for the people of New Brunswick. The project, which was developed in two phases, is the direct result of SWD dealing with a pair of issues.

When solid waste decomposes it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment. Methane is odourless, but when mixed with an organic compound called a thiol, it produces an unpleasant smell. Wanting to be good stewards of the environment as well as neighbours to the surrounding homes and businesses, SWD found a solution with the first phase of the project called the Landfill Gas Management System (LGMS).

After a lengthy process involving a lot of research, investigation and discussion with its board, SWD went ahead with the LGMS which began operation in 2006. The system involved digging wells – both horizontally and vertically – into the existing solid waste cells on the site. As new cells were created, wells were integrated into their design.

Methane and other trace gases would be captured in the wells and then a large vacuum was applied to the field drawing the gas down to the LGMS plant. Once at the plant, the gas makes its way into a 50-foot steel flare. From there, the gases are burned off at a destructive rate greater than 99 per cent with no visible flare or residue.

The LGMS paid immediate dividends with a vast reduction in smell as well as removing between 45,000 to 60,000 tonnes of greenhouses gases from the air per year. While the project was a success, SWD was looking ahead to Phase II, turning the gas into green energy.

In order to do this, additional machinery and equipment were needed. SWD purchased two Jenbacher engines from Austria. The engines are V-20 cylinder and produce 1,324HP each. Instead of burning the highly powerful methane and other gases in the flare, the Landfill Gas Utilization Plant (LGUP) runs the gases through the engine which produces power which is then placed on NB Power grid for use in New Brunswick homes and businesses. The LGUP is capable of producing 2.1 Megawatts of energy, which is enough to power about 2,300 homes.

The LGUP is considered a green and renewable source of energy. The green portion comes from the LGUP removing the equivalent of about 15,000 cars from the road each year in terms of greenhouse gases. It’s deemed renewable as the gas needed to power the engines is produced by solid waste which is dropped off at our facility in large quantities each day.

Where does the gas come from?

Landfill Gas

Landfill gas is created when garbage decomposes in the landfill. The most abundant and important gas emitted is methane. An odourless gas, methane is a potent greenhouse gas (much more powerful than carbon dioxide) and when combined with an organic compound called a thiol, it produces an unpleasant odour.

Negative to Positive

Landfill Gas

The potency of the gas and the odour it produces were the major factors behind the creation of the Landfill Gas Utilization Plant (LGUP). In order to reduce the odour and eliminate greenhouse gas from damaging the atmosphere, SWD undertook a multi-million dollar project that culminated in harnessing the gas and turning it into a source of energy to help heat and light the homes of New Brunswickers.

Landfill Gas

The gas is extracted from the landfill using a series of horizontal and vertical wells. A vacuum is applied to the field to draw methane and other gases to the plant. When the program first came online in 2006, the gas was destroyed by burning it in a large in vessel flare. In 2012, a pair of high-powered engines was installed at the plant and methane was used as the fuel source to run the engines which produce power which is then sent directly to the NB Power grid.

Here are some interesting facts about the LGUP and Methane:

  • According to Environment Canada, approximately 26 per cent of Canada’s total methane emissions in the atmosphere come from landfills
  • Methane is a well-known greenhouse gas and is 21 to 23 more times potent than carbon dioxide
  • Between 45,000 and 60,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent is removed from the atmosphere on  a yearly basis thanks to the LGUP
  • 45,000 to 60,000 tonnes is the equivalent of removing from the atmosphere by volume 1-M bbq tanks every day or the same benefit of taking between 13,000 and 15,000 vehicles off the road daily
  • 1 cubic foot Methane contains 1,012 BTUs energy
  • Average Canadian Home uses 350,000 BTUs per day

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