Methane collection system installed at county landfill

Bob Edmiston, director of the Mesa County Landfill Solid Waste Management, stands at one of the well heads pulling methane out of the landfill.

Mesa County officials say a new methane collection system at the county landfill should immediately help improve air quality in the area and could one day in the future produce electricity.

The county last month fired up the $1 million system, which uses a series of wells bored throughout the landfill and a flare to collect and burn off the gas emitted by the landfill.

Landfill gas, which is produced naturally as garbage degrades, consists of about 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide. But methane is roughly 20 times more harmful to the environment as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The system burns off 260 standard cubic feet of landfill gas each minute, said Bob Edmiston, county solid waste manager.

Federal regulations required the county to study how much gas the landfill was emitting, but the county decided to take the extra step and voluntarily install the collection system now because it can sell greenhouse gas credits, which officials estimate could fetch the county as much as $250,000 a year.

Edmiston said based on the size of the landfill now and how much he expects it to expand, he anticipates the state and the federal government would have required the installation of the system by 2014. That mandate would eliminate the county’s ability to use greenhouse gas credits to offset the project cost.

“This puts us ahead of the curve when it comes to limiting the greenhouse gas emissions from our landfill,” Edmiston said.

The county plans to analyze the quality and quantity of methane coming from the landfill to determine whether it could be used to generate electricity in the future. Edmiston said installing an electricity-generating microturbine would cost between $500,000 and $1 million. He said that level of investment isn’t yet worth the return, but that could change as the landfill grows and produces more gas.

The electricity from a microturbine could power county operations at the landfill or be tied back into the power grid.


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