Landfill methane may be the next alternative fuel

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been promoting the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), to reduce methane emissions from landfills and encourage the beneficial use of landfill gas (LFG) as an energy resource. A company called Team Energy is now working with the City of St. Cloud FL to recover LFG from a closed landfill and convert it to natural gas for use in cars and trucks next year.

Landfill methane is produced when organic materials such as grass clippings, leaves, household waste, food waste and paper decompose from bacterial action in the absence of oxygen.

The dump in St. Cloud was closed in 2002 and is now covered by a grassy knoll. Left untended landfills emit methane and a host of pollutants into the air as part of the natural process. Nearly 30 organic hazardous air pollutants have been identified in uncontrolled LFG, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and vinyl chloride. Exposure to these pollutants can lead to adverse health effects for both people and ecosystems.

Thanks to LMOP there are multiple LFG recovery projects in place in every state of the union and Puerto Rico.

The gas then becomes an asset used as an energy source to create electricity or heat. It has a heating value of 350 to 600 Btu per cubic foot, about half of natural gas. LFG can be used instead of fossil fuels too.

Best of all it is a reliable source generated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By recovering LFG, landfills can significantly reduce their emissions of methane and reduce use of fossil fuels, thus reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants from fossil fuel combustion.

The Team Energy project will net St. Cloud $20,000 a year, creating a cash flow out of thin air, so to speak, according to Jeannette Rivera-Lyles’ story in the Orlando Sentinel May 19. A local trucking company plans to save money by converting their fleet to the compressed natural gas the project will produce.

"It is common in Europe and even India," Don Woods, CEO of Team Energy is quoted as saying. "The U.S. is really behind. We have to start doing something because the days of $1.50-per-gallon aren't coming back."

Though the ability to convert vehicles to run on the relatively plentiful, cheaper and clean-burning gas has been around for some time, the access to a natural gas supply has been what was lacking. Projects like the one Team Energy is undertaking in Florida could change that reality across the country.

T. Boone Pickens himself was championing the use of natural gas in vehicles recently in Washington. Though he was referring to that produced by drilling and extracting gas from wells, the production of natural gas from landfills would essentially reduce the overall cost, greatly widen the availability and even cut transportation costs for the fuel itself.

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