Environmental engineers are called upon to design facilities that transform landfill gas (LFG) into energy in a process that also significantly reduces methane emissions. LFG is extracted from landfills using a series of wells and a blower/flare system. Once extracted, the LFG can be directed to a central point where it is processed and treated. The gas can then be used to generate electricity, replacing fossil fuels used in manufacturing and industrial facilities, or turned into pipeline-quality gas which can be processed into alternative fuels for vehicles.
These LFG energy-conversion facilities provide a number of benefits to both the surrounding communities and the environment. Landfill gas results as a byproduct of the decomposition of organic materials in landfills. Methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — and carbon dioxide each comprise LFG, along with a small amount of other organic compounds such as siloxanes. Landfills are the third leading source of methane gas caused by humans, accounting for more than 15% of the total. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), producing energy from LFG provides the following benefits:
- Energy derived from LFG reduces air pollution by offsetting the use of nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil and natural gas by using the same amount of energy. The nonrenewable resources contribute to acid rain and the production of particulate matter that cause respiratory and a variety of other problems.
- Energy produced from landfill gas reduces the emission of greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
- Conversion of LFG into energy provides health benefits to the community, such as landfill odor reduction/control and the destruction of dangerous pollutants. Collection of gases from landfills reduces the likelihood of explosions.
- LFG energy projects provide economic benefits by generating income from the sales of gas. LFG energy projects also create jobs for individuals who assist in constructing, designing and maintaining energy conversion facilities.
Quick Facts about Landfill Gas Energy Production
- A properly operated LFG energy project can remove as much as 90% of the methane generated and emitted from a landfill.
- Presently, about 75% of collected LFG is converted to electricity, and the remainder is used to offset another fuel.
- LFG can also be used in co-generation projects to produce both electricity and thermal energy (in the form of hot water and/or steam).
- It takes one to three years for landfills to begin generating significant quantities of LFG. The greatest amount of LFG is produced five to seven years after the waste is first disposed.
Since 1989, HSA Golden has provided environmental engineering and consulting services to clients all over the world. Our practice areas include solid and hazardous waste management, waste-to-energy, site development engineering, environmental due diligence, and litigation support, among others. From governmental agencies and multinational, publicly traded corporations to smaller, single-office real estate and legal firms, we are proud of not only the relationships we have built, but also of the trust that our clients place in us.