Thu 15 Mar 2007
Trash Talk: 1 Megawatt of Waste Not Methane, Want Not Energy, April’s SWAB Report Reveals OpportunityPosted by WillR under CarolinaNorth , Carrboro , ChapelHill , Community , EconomicDevelopment , environment , Hillsborough , OrangeCounty , Ruminations , UNC
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To flesh out my earlier post “Trash Talk: Waste Not Methane, Want Not Energy” here’s a few comments from the April 6th, 2006 Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB).
There’s a few inline comments demarcated by [CitizenWill:…].
Landfill Gas Preliminary Report (discussed after item 1)
Tipton [BJ Tipton – member ] states that other than what was in the newspaper I don’t know a lot about what is going on. I just wanted to get the update.
Wilson [Gayle Wilson – OC staff] states that a presentation was given at the Assembly of Government’s meeting March 30 regarding this. Back in 1997-98 an EPA representative, myself and another staff member met with UNC Energy Services officials who were in the process of designing a fourth boiler (at UNC) and that was when they decided to look at modifying the boiler to use landfill gas. The University never formally responded.
Over the years the use of landfill gas at Chapel Hill North has come up. Phil Barner of UNC facility services called at the end of October early November and stated as they were talking about Carolina North they wanted to know about using landfill gas. I explained that we had a consultant do a report and would be glad to send it to him. After the report was sent in February, I didn’t hear anymore about it until a couple of weeks ago.
Then we got a letter from Carolyn Efland at UNC about landfill gas.
Now there appears to be competing interest in landfill gas. Some of the Commissioners are interested, if it’s feasible, in powering the new Animal Shelter, a new elementary school to be developed on Eubanks Road, our Operations Center and possibly the transfer station. The University has some interest as well. We are in the process of discussing further work with our consultants to do an additional evaluation regarding each of those potential uses. We know that we have gas, but if Carolina North isn’t coming on line for another six or seven years it won’t be worth it.
There are no partners imminent, like next June.
Sassaman [Jan Sassaman – member] states that the gas would have to be used, you can’t store it.
[CitizenWill: Don’t understand this comment as the gas can be converted into methanol or liquid natural gas or propane, etc.]
Smith [Remus Smith – member] asks if the landfill was closed tomorrow how many years would it take to produce gas?
Wilson states that gas worthy of recovery – 12-15 years of time left.
Tipton states that the report talks about the flow.
Wilson states that there are two landfills. The old one on the north is down the [gas production; it started in 1972] curve. The one on the south side isn’t half way up the curve. It has some good stuff coming from it now, but it will not produce for a long period of time [because it’s small].
[CitizenWill: Below we find out this “good stuff” is being vented!]
Kabrick [Randy Kabrick – member] asks if it is being flared now?
Wilson states that we are passively venting it. We have one flare at a central point. I have been resistant in the past because I didn’t want to scare the neighbors lighting up the landfill like a birthday cake. Now we are going to take another look at it even though we are below the regulatory threshold for recovering it.
Kabrick estimates 500,000 cubic feet a day are vented.
[CitizenWill: 500,000/day is roughly 350 cubic feet per minute. This article from GeoTimes points out that “A 1-megawatt electric power plant working on an internal combustion gas engine needs a sustained flow of about 350 standard cubic feet per minute of landfill gas.” So, we’re pissing away from this small, old landfill 1 MEGAWATT of electrical generation capacity.]
Wilson notes that the biggest single cost of recovery is the network of piping that must be installed and for an active landfill it’s more difficult until it’s closed.
Spire [Paul Spire – staff] notes that there is no infrastructure for recovery on the south side now at all and there are problems with putting this gas into the pipeline; the gas company doesn’t want it.
Wilson notes that [unlike Duke Power] the gas company is not required to accept landfill gas.
Tipton asks when will this group take any action on this?
Wilson states that I plan to keep you all apprised of any reports. If you all have any input it would not be out of line to make a recommendation. You will be hearing more about it in the next six months.
As I noted above, we are currently venting from the smaller, older (1972) landfill enough gas to drive a 1 megawatt electric power plant. 1 megawatt of discarded capacity seems like a profligate waste to me.
Imagine what we could do with the “newer” landfill.
Imagine if we used fuel cells with land fill gas [PDF] instead of internal combustion (more expensive upfront but the lack of nasty byproducts make it worth considering).
Imagine if we positioned our county to be more self-sufficient, reduce dependence on Duke Power’s coal-fired misery and generate some positive cash flow to boot!
Is that the Orange County we live in?