Image shows landfill gas equipment collecting and using biomethane.

Landfill Gas Utilisation – US Still Waking Up to LFG Profits and LMOP

In 2007, when we first posted this article about Landfill Gas Utilisation for LFG Profits, we said that the US was still waking up to the potential to make money from collecting and selling landfill gas energy. However, it was not until 10 years later in 2017, that the US government instigated the LMOP programme. LMOP stands for “Landfill Methane Outreach Programme”. This initiative has accelerated LFG utilisation in the US, and some states now also require Landfill Gas Collection for flaring at all landfills, so that the very highly damaging greenhouse gas effects of the methane in landfill gas are at least ameliorated.

Basic information about landfill gas

In March 2022, 541 operational LFU energy projects were operating, and a further 474 landfills could potentially be considered for projects. Landfill gas is produced by decomposition from waste and landfills. LFG is composed of about 50% methane (the most important component of natural gas), and 50% CO2. Methane is up to 80 times more damaging in its effect than CO2 at raising atmospheric temperature 100 years ago, per the latest EPA website.

Image shows the cover of the LMOP LFG Energy Development Handbook.The LFG Energy Project Development Handbook was published in 2017. and provides The handbook provides an overview of landfill gas (LFG) energy project development guidance, and presents the technological, economic and regulatory considerations that affect the feasibility and success of LFG energy projects.

Landfill owners, energy service providers, end users, representatives of state agencies and local government, community members and other
interested stakeholders will benefit from information provided in this handbook as they work together to develop successful LFG energy projects.

The handbook presents national statistics that reflect LMOP’s Landfill and LFG Energy Project Database as of June 2017. Project cost estimates  are presented in this handbook , with links to a number of LFG project design tools.The data shows a very large undeveloped resource exists. via LMOP Handbook.

About LMOP

The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is a voluntary program that works cooperatively with industry stakeholders and waste officials to reduce or avoid methane emissions from landfills. via LMOP LFG Project Handbook.

Facts About US Landfills as Energy Providers Leading to Landfill Gas Profits

MSW landfills are the third largest human caused source of methane in the United States, accounting for approximately 15.4 percent of U.S. methane emissions in 2015.

Every million tons of MSW in a landfill is estimated to be able to produce approximately 300 cubic feet per minute of LFG. Through various
technologies, this amount of LFG could generate approximately 0.78 megawatts of power, or provide 9 million Btu per hour of thermal energy.

This is a resource which, when utilised at the right landfills, can almost certainly produce a very healthy income for the landfill owners. Throughout the EU, and many other nations, the view has been for many years that, even without profitability, landfill gas should always be collected (and at least flared off) in order to minimise climate change.

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The waste industry in the US has always been aware of the potential for landfill gas utilisation and the large waste management companies were even in 2007, implementing schemes alongside enlightened. The following is the original Press Release which sparked our interest in this subject, back in 2007:

Landfill Gas Utilisation could help Rockingham earn $1 million per year

11 August 2007: WENTWORTH, N.C. Rockingham County could generate $1 million annually by capturing the methane gas emitting from its unused landfills, according to a study produced for county commissioners.

Image about Rockingham County landfill gas utilisation profits.
CC BY-NC-ND by World Bank Photo Collection

Energy researchers from Appalachian State University found that the county, a mostly rural area bordering the Virginia line, could earn $300,000 annually from its already-closed landfills and up to $1 million per year when another landfill closes in several years. Very healthy landfill gas utilisation profits.

Rachel Goldstein, program manager for the Environmental Protection Agency's Landfill Outreach Program, said recent energy crunches have encouraged companies and governments to capture the potential of the landfill gas. Landfill gas utilisation can be very worthwhile.

Several companies and governments in North Carolina already use the gas, including those in Greensboro, Winston Salem, Wake County and Mecklenburg County. Rockingham County, which is far less populated than those areas, is now looking at the technology.

“It just blew me away when I was originally reading that report”,

County Manager Tom Robinson said of the potential revenue source. Read more at the Associated Press Web Site.

The Waster's view: Everyone has been saying for so long that landfill gas extraction and utilisation is now highly profitable once the gas collection systems have been installed for flaring, as required by the regulatory authorities in most nations. It seems surprising that the word has still not apparently, until now, fully penetrated the US waste management scene.

Next time a landfill gas specialist tells me that he has no more new sites to install systems into, and that the “low hanging fruit in landfill gas is all-gone”, I know what I am going to say! I guess you will too, if you read the report below:

How Waste Management Inc. is Making Money from Landfill Gas Utilisation

The items that do end up at the landfill can in some cases be converted to energy. At roughly 130 disposal sites, the company uses naturally-occurring landfill gas to power homes and businesses in the local region. Just recently, it even developed the technology to convert landfill gas into a fuel its fleet vehicles can run on.

I may use comedy in this article when I compare Waste Management to magicians, although to be frank, the company has proven its expertise in making your curbside trash vanish while you're at work, and then turn around and create usable forms of energy with it. Can you do that? I didn't think so.

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Here are three ways the company provides energy using landfill gas:

1. Electricity – generating electricity at power plants located either at our land-fill or at a nearby business.

2. Alternative Fuel – piping it to customers for use as a heating fuel to supplement (or replace) oil, coal and natural gas.

3. Processed Gas – cleaning and delivering it to transmission pipelines to perform the same applications as natural gas.

And these aren't just theories, they're realities. For example, at the company's Suburban land-fill in Savannah, GA that opened an energy plant just 9 years ago, has since been producing enough electricity to power 3,500 homes in and around Savannah. Through this plant alone, the company is creating the energy equivalent of roughly 25,000 tons of coal. Numbers say a lot, but what’s most important to know is that communities are being powered by the same waste they generate.

According to the Renewable Brochure linked above, between all of Waste Management’s renewable energy offerings, including landfill gas, it will produce enough electricity to power two million homes by the year 2020. Amazingly the company is already making tremendous progress as it is more than halfway there, producing enough for 1.2 million homes. via  OwnThisStockForever

The following section was also part of our 2007 posting on this subject:

Landfill Gas Utilisation Doesn't Have to Mean Electricity Generation in the Following Innovative Proposal:

Dubuque landfill looking to turn gas into cash – KWWL

That's the aim of a project the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Agency is hoping to get off the ground.

As trash breaks down in the landfill, it creates a gas that's a mix of methane, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other trace elements.

The DMASWA has paid about $2 million for a system that collects and destroys most of that gas.  They pay about $100,000 every year to maintain and run the system.

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But now they want to do more than just destroy it. They want to make money off of it.

While there are a number of options, the most feasible, they say, it's best to turn that gas into gasoline equivalents that can be sold to the transportation industry.

All told, they say the gas generated at the landfill in Dubuque translates to more than 1 million gallons of gasoline equivalent.

The goal, they say, 10-15 years down the road, is to have “something that's able to clean the gas and create a marketable product. Now whether it's still being used as a transportation fuel at that point, or whether we shift it over to electrical generation, or whether we shift it over to process fuel, gives that flexibility to the agency and to its private partner, really on how to maximize the physical value as well as the environmental value of the gas that we generate,” said John Foster, DMASWA's administrator.

They're currently looking for a partner to help develop the system to clean and convert the gas, then sell it. via Dubuque landfill looking to turn gas into cash

Biomethane From Landfill Gas Gets Big Thumbs Up From Waste Management Inc

Waste Management Inc. Discusses World’s Largest Landfill Gas To Fuel Plant

As a start-up on the world’s largest plant to convert landfill gas into clean vehicle fuel nears completion, joint venture partners Linde North America and Waste Management have begun to share details of the project. The companies are installing systems at WM’s Altamont Landfill near Livermore, CA that will purify and liquefy landfill gas, a renewable source of biomethane fuel. When the $15.5 million plant begins operating later this year, it is designed to produce up to 13,000 gallons a day of liquefied natural gas (LNG) that could fuel hundreds of waste collection vehicles.

Bryan Luftglass, Manager of Anaerobic Digestion process partner Linde North America’s Energy Segment said, “Biomethane is a truly renewable and readily available green source of high-quality fuel.”

Although it is still an emerging commodity, its economic and environmental value is rapidly being recognized.” Kent Stoddard, Vice President of Public Affairs for Waste Management’s West Group also commented saying, “Waste Management’s partnership with Linde will allow us to tap into a valuable source of clean energy while greatly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Natural gas is already the cleanest burning fuel available for our collection trucks and the opportunity to use recovered landfill gas offers enormous environmental benefits to the communities we serve.”

SOURCE: Waste Management, Inc.

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In the last century, LFG utilisation technology has risen dramatically with developed countries making good progress in converting this LFG into various kinds of energy.

It is important that this energy conversion takes place on an ever-larger scale.

Municipal landfills were the third-highest emitter of methane emissions from human activities in 2019. They account for 15.1 percentage points. In 2018, methane emissions at MSW landfill sites grew by almost 16% from its total annual emissions of nearly 21.6 million cars, compared to 11.6 million cars' emissions. However, methane is a lost opportunity for the use of an important energy source.

Europe in its attempts to reduce MSW output has reduced the dumping of MSW on landfills at a large scale.

On the other hand, Africa is a largely undeveloped country in comparison to developed countries. Most MSW is disposed of in Africa in dumps and there are very few properly engineered landfill sites. These factors reduce the potential collection of LFG extraction and utilization.

Things are improving with more landfills producing landfill gas by the week. But although there is definitely plenty of planning the execution of plans to reduce landfill use.

The construction of landfill sites continues. So, many more landfills will soon be able to create energy from their landfill gas. How effectively this will be done is hard to conclude as there are numerous factors affecting LFG extraction, such as equipment performance and others such as capital, human and expertise.


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