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Landfill Methane


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Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

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Landfill Methane
Nat. Gas Emissions
Coal Mine Methane
Animal Waste Methane
SF6 Reduction


 Landfill Methane Energy Recovery


Landfills are the largest source of U.S. anthropogenic methane emissions. Landfill methane is produced when organic materials (such as yard waste, household waste, food waste, and paper) are decomposed by bacteria under anaerobic conditions (i.e., in the absence of oxygen).

Methane production varies greatly from landfill to landfill depending on site-specific characteristics such as waste in place, waste composition, moisture content, landfill design and operating practices, and climate. Unless captured first by a gas recovery system, methane generated by the landfill is emitted when it migrates through the landfill cover. During this process, the soil oxidizes approximately ten percent of the methane generated, and the remaining 90 percent is emitted.

Increased recycling and alternative waste disposal methods are contributing to a forecasted decline in landfill methane emissions, by slowing the rate of waste going into landfills. Primarily because of a rise in recycling, the percent of waste going to landfills has been declining, and this percentage decline has offset the increase in total tons generated, roughly stabilizing the level of waste going into landfills.

The largest factor behind these projected emissions reductions is the Landfill Rule, requiring large landfills to collect and combust landfill gas. Previously, emissions of landfill gas - comprised mainly of methane, carbon dioxide, and nonmethane organic compounds (NMOCs) - were not subject to federal clean air regulations. For larger landfills, these emissions are now regulated under the Clean Air Act as a result of the landfill New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and Emissions Guidelines (EG), promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 12, 1996. Under this Landfill Rule, gas collection and control systems are required for any landfill that (1) does or did accept municipal solid waste, (2) was active on or after November 8, 1987, (3) has a total permitted capacity of at least 2.5 million metric tons of waste, and (4) has NMOC emissions of at least 50 metric tons per year.

There are two compliance options under the Landfill Rule - installation of a LFG collection system and flaring, or installation of a LFG collection system and an energy recovery system. Although the affected landfills are required to reduce emissions of nonmethane organic compounds that form tropospheric ozone (smog), their activities also result in a simultaneous reduction in methane emissions.

The recovery and use of methane from landfills can significantly reduce the overall emissions of greenhouse gases. Landfills are the largest anthropogenic source of methane in the U.S.  There are a variety ways that utilities can reduce overall emissions of methane from landfills. Landfill methane can be collected by developing gas recovery systems, and it can then be used to generate electricity, as a fuel for nearby industrial purposes, or enriched and sold to gas pipelines.

Capture and use of landfill methane as fuel for electricity generation is done through the development of well fields and collection systems at the landfill. Collected methane can be used for on-site power generation or pipelined to a nearby existing generating station. Where electric generation is impractical, flaring is preferred over direct venting to reduce emissions and fire hazards.

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 Power Partners Projects

Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC), in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is expanding its Evergreen Renewable Energy Program and is on track to reach 10 percent renewable generation by 2015. DPC has 17 MW of wind generation and 22 MW of hydroelectric power and owns a 10.4-MW landfill gas-to-energy plant. In addition, DPC’s animal waste-to-energy program utilizes manure from dairy and swine farms within the DPC system to produce methane for conversion to electricity. Currently, 3 MW of “cow power” are online, and DPC has plans to bring as much as 25 MW of additional capacity online over five years.

DTE Biomass Energy helps reduce GHG emissions by developing, owning, and operating landfill gas recovery systems throughout the United States. DTE Biomass Energy collects landfill gas  –  primarily methane  –  and turns it into other forms of energy. Begun in 1989, DTE Biomass today operates more than 30 landfill methane recovery facilities nationwide. In 2001 alone, DTE Biomass recovered more than 20 billion cubic feet of landfill gas   –   the equivalent of nearly four million tons of CO2 emissions.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) offers the EnviroWatts program, which includes five landfill gas-to-electricity generating facilities that produce enough electricity to power 12,000 homes.

Emerald People’s Utility District, in Eugene, Oregon, operates the Short Mountain Methane Power Plant, which converts methane  –  a gas that is roughly 21 times as potent as CO2  –  into electricity. The plant, which produces 2.5 MW annually and provides enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes, paid for itself in about seven years. Since the Short Mountain Landfill is an operating landfill and plans to accept refuse for many years into the future, this project will continue to produce electricity for about another 20 years.

In 2006, Exelon Power, an Exelon business unit, completed a two-year project to convert an oil-based plant designed in 1950 into a modern, clean-operating, reliable, and efficient generating station through the use of improved technology and production methods. As a result, the two-unit, 60-MW Fairless Hills Generating Station will be the second-largest landfill gas generating station in the United States. This substantial renewable energy project is able to consume 100 percent of the landfill gas that Waste Management produces at its nearby GROWS and Tulleytown landfills. Exelon Power also operates the six-MW Pennsbury landfill gas generating station in southeastern Pennsylvania.

FPL Group currently has firm capacity contracts with seven small power production and cogeneration facilities, providing 877 MW of firm capacity. Three of the facilities use solid waste as their fuel, one uses landfill gas and biomass, and another uses waste heat as its energy source.

Jacksonville Electric Authority recovered more than 17,000 tons of methane from two municipal landfill sites from 2003 to 2005.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data

Environmental Protection Agency, “Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP)”

EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is an assistance and partnership program that promotes the use of landfill gas as a renewable, green energy source. By preventing emissions of methane through the development of landfill gas energy projects, LMOP helps businesses, states, energy providers, and communities protect the environment and build a sustainable future. This website is the Home Page for LMOP activities.

Environmental Protection Agency, Landfill Methane Outreach Program, “LMOP Gasette”

Published several times a year, this EPA newsletter contains feature articles, RFP opportunities, online resources, news about LMOP partners, and conferences and announcements.

Environmental Protection Agency, Landfill Methane Outreach Program, “Funding Landfill Gas Projects: State, Federal, and Foundation Resources

This guidebook is a “living” document that will be updated and expanded periodically. The extensive guidebook offers detailed information on innovative state, federal, and foundation funding resources (i.e., programs and strategies), including: loans, grants, production incentives, and property, sale, and use tax exemptions. It also contains information about state renewable portfolio standards that include LFG. LMOP developed this document to help communities, landfill owners and operators, and state officials overcome the financial barriers to LFG project development.

Environmental Protection Agency, Landfill Methane Outreach Program, “Adapting Boilers to Utilize Landfill Gas: An Environmentally and Economically Beneficial Opportunity”

Utilization of landfill gas (LFG) in place of a conventional fuel such as natural gas, fuel oil, or coal in boilers is an established practice with a track record of more than 25 years of success. In the United States, more than 60 organizations have switched to the use of LFG in their industrial, commercial, or institutional boilers, with more than 70 boilers operating with LFG, either alone or co-fired with other fuels. This 4-page fact sheet details the retrofits needed to enable a boiler to operate efficiently using LFG.

Environmental Protection Agency, Landfill Methane Outreach Program, “Waste Management, Inc.: Forming Partnerships to Lead the Landfill Gas Energy Industry”

Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) provides comprehensive waste management services and undertakes projects that collect landfill gas and convert it to usable energy. WMI owns and operates nearly 300 landfills throughout the United States and has formed a joint venture partnership to operate more than 30 landfill gas energy (LFGE) projects. EPA recognized WMI as a Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Industry Partner of the Year in 1999.

SCS Engineers, “Helping Landfill Owners Achieve Effective, Low-Cost Compliance with Federal Landfill Gas Regulations” (report to the U.S. EPA)

This booklet provides the basic information that the owner/operator of a municipal solid waste landfill needs to comply with the landfill rule. It provides a simple explanation of the landfill rule and discusses how landfill gas-to-energy can be an attractive compliance option.

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