Landfill gas is an appealing alternative to increasingly expensive oil-based fuels. This type of biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide that forms a liquefied natural gas (LNG) after being purified, condensed and finally super-cooled.
Linde North America and Waste Management are working together to create the world’s largest waste-to-energy facility in Livermore, California. Biogas will be used to fuel the fleet responsible for transporting the endless supply of garbage to the facility: This will begin the cycle of garbage fueled garbage trucks, where one would not exist without the other.
According to the Linde website “Linde [an international gases and engineering company] is responsible for the engineering of the plant as well as the cleaning and subsequent liquefaction of the landfill gas. Waste Management, North America’s leading recycling and waste management company, is supplying the landfill gas – which comes from the natural decomposition of organic waste.”
Methane gas is emitted when waste decomposes without exposure to oxygen, but methane does occur naturally in the environment as well: The EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program explains that “Methane is emitted from a variety of both human-related (anthropogenic) and natural sources. Human-related activities include fossil fuel production, animal husbandry (enteric fermentation in livestock and manure management), rice cultivation, biomass burning, and waste management. These activities release significant quantities of methane to the atmosphere. It is estimated that 60% of global methane emissions are related to human-related activities. Natural sources of methane include wetlands [accounting for about 80% of emissions], gas hydrates, permafrost, termites, oceans, freshwater bodies, non-wetland soils, and other sources such as wildfires.
Methane gas produced by landfills currently seeps into the environment as wasted energy. Not only that, but methane supposedly causes more damage to the environment than CO2. Landfills are the largest source of human-related methane, accounting for almost 1/3 of emissions. It is only logical to absorb the gas for use as a clean and efficient fuel while eliminating another biproduct of human refuse.
Waste Management claims that “When the facility begins operating in 2009 it is expected to produce up to 13,000 gallons a day of LNG”. (press release)