A METHANE RECOVERY PROGRAM that will offer private businesses opportunities abroad is up and running. In November, government officials from the United States and 13 other countries gathered in Washington, D.C., for three days of meetings to launch the Methane to Markets Partnership.
The purpose of the initiative is to promote the capture of methane from landfills, underground coal mines, and natural gas and oil systems, and then use the gas as an energy source. Developed countries in the partnership will assist member countries that are developing or that have economies in transition with launching projects to recover and use methane.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., the partnership has the potential to, by 2015, reduce global methane emissions to an extent equal to the impact of taking 33 million cars off the road for one year. Methane accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA says. Only carbon dioxide, which makes up 74 percent of the emissions, accounts for more. However, methane is about 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so reducing its emissions could have significant environmental benefits, EPA says.
At the November conference, the participating countries created committees, which consist of government officials, and charged them with creating action plans and identifying sites for potential gas-to-energy projects in the coming months, says Brian Guzzone, team leader for the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP). The government officials also met with representatives from the private sector, who made technical presentations and participated in the committee meetings. “We really need the private sector involved to help this partnership really be successful,” Guzzone says.
Member countries developing methane-recovery-and-use projects will need the services of firms similar to those that have participated in the LMOP, Guzzone says. This includes consultants, engineers, designers of landfill-gas-to-energy facilities, equipment manufacturers and project financiers.
There are 1,200 landfills around the globe at which methane is recovered for energy use, Guzzone says. About 370 of those are in the United States.
The United States has pledged $53 million over five years to the Methane to Markets Partnership. The EPA, Department of Energy, State Department, Trade and Development Agency, and Agency for International Development will aid the effort.
Besides the United States, the partnership includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets.