LANDFILL: Pooling Helps Small Landfills Market Methane

Small landfills have a problem marketing their methane - unless they are located adjacent to a large industrial site where their gas could be tailored to a specific need and the power supply costs are higher than average, specifically for large demands.

Also, unless the situation is ideal, landfill methane projects are difficult to develop due to high initial costs and a variable fuel supply.

One solution to this problem was created by Columbus, Ohio-based American Municipal Power-Ohio (AMP-Ohio), which pooled landfill resources in a project believed to be the first arrangement of its kind in the United States.

AMP-Ohio is a trade association and wholesale power supplier for 78 municipal electric systems in Ohio, plus three in Pennsylvania and two in West Virginia.

Through an arrangement with Browning-Ferris Gas Service Inc., (BFI), Houston, and Energy Developments Ltd., (EDL), Houston, AMP-Ohio can market up to 35 megawatts (mW) of green power generated by landfill gas from seven Ohio sites.

Because these landfills are close to each other, the transmission costs are lower, which helps reduce the constraints of moving power on peak days. And, because these locations are smaller power sources, tapping transmission systems is cheaper and less of a problem.

As a result, 25 modular units ranging from 800 kilowatts (kW) to 1,400 kW will use the "best available technology" to comply with EPA's emissions requirements. In total, the landfill gas burning units will displace the energy equivalent of 1,635 barrels of oil per day.

During 1999, 34 of AMP-Ohio's members contracted 33.1 mW of electricity from these sites.

In addition, the developers wanted to use accelerated depreciation and federal tax credits to reach a reasonable return on their investments. The result was a cost effective revenue neutral project.

A green power source became feasible when the average cost of existing on/off peak purchased power agreements and the anticipated 97 percent system availability were considered.

In addition to greenhouse gases being reduced by not using methane flaring, producing this 35 mW of green power eliminates the yearly generation of 69,828 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the 2,047 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted from coal fired generators.

Today, the project supplies a blueprint for other systems and communities. In fact, AMP-Ohio recently was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., (EPA), Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) as a 1999 Energy Ally of the Year.

Although landfill gas generation projects aren't new, addressing the unique marketing needs of smaller methane generating facilities distinguishes this project.