Step 1 - Initial Assessment/Pre-Feasibility Study

The purpose of this initial step is to estimate the quantity of LFG that can be recovered from a landfill site over time, identify and evaluate potential end-uses for the recovered LFG, and perform basic financial analyses of the most likely development scenarios.

To perform this initial assessment, information on the landfill site and the potential end-user(s) needs to be gathered and evaluated by an experienced LFGE expert. This usually will involve a site visit. Typical information to be gathered includes:


  • Current topographic site plan (in CADD).
  • Information on the landfill's bottom elevations (in CADD, if available).
  • Information on the design and installation of the landfill's liner and cover systems.
  • Landfill closure plan/final contours (in CADD, if available).
  • Landfill fill sequencing plans.
  • Design, construction records, and monitoring and operational data associated with the landfill's environmental monitoring and control systems (LFG, leachate, and condensate, as available).
  • Any LFG analytical data.
  • Historical and projected annual waste receipts (in tons per year).
  • Waste characterization data.
  • Site environmental permits.

Electric & Gas Utility End-User(s)

  • Interconnect location and requirements.
  • RPS requirements and goals.

Direct-Use End-User(s)

  • Annual power and gas usage.
  • Diurnal and seasonal variations in power and gas usage.
  • Current price paid for power and natural gas.
  • Information on any furnaces or boilers, including gas flows, peaks, and pressure demand.
  • Maps of the potential pipeline route.
  • Identify easements, crossings and rights-of-way or other impediments for the pipeline.
  • Identify environmental issues associated with the potential pipeline route including potential wetlands, endangered species, or other environmental conditions.

This information is then used to develop an Initial Site Assessment Report that provides:

  • An estimate of the quantity of recoverable LFG from the Site on an annual basis.
  • If applicable, an estimate of the quantity of GHG Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs) that might be generated by the project on an annual basis.
  • A preliminary estimate of the capital, and annual operations and maintenance (O&M), budgets for installation and/or expansion of the extraction wellfield and collection system.
  • Based on the LFG recovery estimate provide a recommended facility capacity and configuration for each potential end-use. For any direct-use scenarios, the study also provides the energy requirements of the end-user(s).
  • Potential permitting requirements, with an emphasis on identifying regulatory/permitting constraints that may make the project difficult or even impossible to permit.
  • A preliminary estimate of the capital and annual O&M budgets for each potential LFGE facility.
  • An estimate of the spatial requirements for each potential LFGE facility.
  • A preliminary schedule for development of each project.
  • Identification of potential governmental tax credits, grants, low-interest loans, and other programs for which each project may qualify.
  • Indicative pricing for all potential revenue streams.
  • Preliminary pro forma financial statements for the recommended project configurations.
  • Recommendations.

Even if you have no intention of self-developing a project either as a landfill owner, or as an end-user, the information developed in this initial study will help you understand what end-use scenarios are most likely, and equip you with technical and financial knowledge that will allow you to better assess those proposing to develop the project, as well as arrive at a fair deal with the selected developer. If this is to be a third-party developer project, at this point the landfill owner, sometimes in conjunction with a preferred end-user, could issue an RFQ/RFP, and ultimately select a project developer, or you could perform Task 2 first, before you make that decision.

Return to the main story, "Light It Up: How to develop a landfill gas-to-energy project".

Steven M. Hamilton is a vice president of SCS Engineers. He is based in the firm's Santa Rosa, Calif., office.