Landfill Gas to Energy 101

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Microorganisms thrive in the oxygen-free environment, resulting in the decomposition of the organic materials and the production of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is likely to leach out of the landfill because it is soluble in water. Methane, on the other hand, which is less soluble in water and lighter than air, is likely to migrate out of the landfill.

This methane, which comprises roughly 60 percent of the landfill gas, happens to be a powerful source of electricity. Methane is also a highly potent agent of global warming and causes about 21 times more damage to the ozone than CO2. Landfill gas (LFG) to energy facilities capture the harmful methane gas, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere or burned off in a flaring process, and then combust it for energy, providing a clean, renewable source of electricity; making LFG the only form of renewable that directly reduces pollution to the atmosphere. Most LFG projects are available to generate power 90 percent of the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Using landfill gas also reduces the need to use more polluting forms of energy, such as coal and oil.

The methane is collected by drilling "wells" into the landfills, and collecting the gases through pipes. The landfill gas that is collected is cleaned, cooled and dewatered. After it is processed, it can be transformed into electricity or combined with natural gas to fuel certain automobiles. Landfill gas may also be used in fuel cell technologies, which use chemical reactions to create electricity, and are much more efficient than combustion turbines.


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