First-of-its-kind Sustainable Landfill in Texas Becomes a Global Model

The City of Denton Landfill (Texas, USA) reportedly is the first in the world to implement “closed-loop waste management.” This technique combines landfill gas (LFG) capture with landfill mining to sort out and recover reusable and re-sellable plastics and metals, as well the remaining organic material for conversion to biomass energy pellets. Mining reduces the volume of material enough (by an estimated 95%) for the fill space itself to be re-used for new waste placement, thereby extending the life of the landfill essentially indefinitely (i.e., perpetual landfill). Dr. Sahadat Hossain, of the Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability (SWIS) at the University of Texas Arlington, developed this perpetual landfill model to be cost-efficient and potentially profitable. The roughly 20-year cyclical process significantly reduces the need for long-term environmental monitoring, one of the greatest legacy swis-logocosts of landfill management. It also reduces a municipality’s land acquisition costs for future landfill sites, while providing a revenue stream in the forms of cheap, locally-produced energy and reusable materials.

While the concept is readily applicable to U.S. solid waste management sites, even greater potential may reside in many developing countries, where open-pit landfills and open-air trash burning are common solid waste disposal methods. Many of the developing world’s cities do not have the same level of access to public and private funding for landfill projects as their counterparts in developed nations, and cannot readily afford greener and more sanitary forms of waste management. However, the profitability factor of the closed-loop technique, along with potential public health and environmental benefits, could be attractive to both budget-conscious policymakers and investors, creating potential for deployment worldwide (source: Al Jazeera). Speaking with Methane International, Dr. Hossain says SWIS and the City of Denton have already welcomed representatives from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who plan to implement a closed-loop system for their city.

Another sign of global applicability is the group of international students and researchers eager to come to SWIS each year to learnwinter-school-students about emerging methods like this at a two-week “Winter School,” a hands-on landfill sustainability program hosted jointly with the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and the City of Denton. Dr. Hossain and his team will welcome the Winter School’s 2017 class of up-and-coming landfill sustainability specialists to Arlington, Texas, on January 16-27, where GMI’s Tom Frankiewicz will be a featured presenter.

And the timing of the gathering couldn’t be better – it just happens to be January of 2017 that the nearby City of Denton’s new landfill system is expected to become fully operational.

California’s Landmark Methane Legislation

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Governor Brown giving remarks before the bill-signing in Long Beach, California. Photo credit: Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol.

On 19 September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation enacting new emission limits on short-lived climate pollutants, particularly methane, in the state of California. This historic legislation is globally relevant as it limits methane emissions from the most populous U.S. state and one of the largest economies in the world. California emits roughly 40 MMTCO2e each year, of which 21% comes from landfills and more than half comes from its impressive agriculture sector (source: California Air Resources Board).

 

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Breakdown of 2014 methane emissions in the state of California, by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board (CARB)

The new law calls for a statewide reduction of methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. In addition to the statewide reduction of total emissions, the legislation further specifies a steep reduction in organic waste disposal in state landfills (up to a 75% reduction below 2014 disposal levels by 2025) and 40% reduction from 2013 levels of methane emissions from the state’s dairy and livestock sectors by 2030.

The rules lay out strategies to limit emissions, including a suite of new methane capture and re-use programs tied to more than $90 million in funding. Most of that funding – $50 million from the state’s pre-existing Cap-and-Trade program – is to be directed to help the dairy industry offset the cost of new digester equipment that will be used to control methane emissions.

In addition to direct funding, the new laws include strategies to “identify and address technical, market, regulatory, and other challenges and barriers” to biomethane projects. This includes helping to develop five new pilot projects, establishing new energy infrastructure development and procurement policies (including a biomethane pipeline system), and a pilot financial mechanism “to reduce the economic uncertainty associated with the value of environmental credits.”

The law also calls for a 50% increase in composting in the next four years in order to support the new organic waste stream reductions, and lays out a provisional mechanism to provide financial incentives for the deployment of technology to reduce enteric methane emissions – that is, those from gaseous bovine expulsions – should that technology become both cost-effective and “scientifically proven.”

Methane Gains Traction While New Study Provokes Debate

It’s been quite a busy week for methane – in the past few days the U.S. EPA’s new methane regulations were discussed in the U.S. Congress and the Governor of California signed new legislation to dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, in his state.

We’ll have more on the California legislation for you next week! In the meantime, with all that as a back-drop, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences just published a new study which argues that fugitive emissions from fossil fuel activities may be driving recent increases in atmospheric methane concentrations. Previous studies, however, have pointed that finger at agriculture and landfills.

For the full scoop, check out this great Scientific American article.

Anaerobic Digester Training Deck

GMI has finalized its interactive Anaerobic Digestion (AD) for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) instructional presentation. The presentation – designed to be reviewed by a group or individually – is a truly comprehensive collection of resources, including:

  • Introduction to AD for MSW
  • Overview of AD processes and technologies
  • Review of the benefits of AD
  • Review of the key areas to consider when developing an AD project
  • Assorted AD case studies and a review of AD worldwide

The presentation can be used sequentially, or by using its internal links to navigate between sections. Click below to start your tour!

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August News Round-Up

We’re back after an August holiday! On to the latest news…

As you can see from the assortment of links below, much of the August methane news focused on methane emissions from livestock digestion, also known as enteric fermentation. Although enteric fermentation is the world’s largest source of methane emissions, we here at GMI do not cover it due to the difficulties in measuring and recovering it, but we certainly take a keen interest in mitigation developments. Significantly reducing meat consumption (particularly red meat) and demand is the ultimate mitigation solution, but such incentives and policies are not even under consideration at this time (although California has recently proposed regulation). As scientists study the issue in cows, pigs, and even buffalo, stopgap solutions have emerged such as improvements in feed efficiency and high tech backpacks that capture passed cow gas. The backpacks catch and contain almost 300 liters of methane per cow per day – or enough to power a refrigerator for a day.

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In related news, last year Italian dairy farmers opened The Shit Museum, featuring home goods that are made out of a compound of baked manure and clay that they call merdacotta — “baked excrement.” The group of farmers recently won the top prize for their exhibition of merdacotta goods design at this year’s prestigious Milan Design Week. Check out The New York Times’s fascinating profile on merdacotta goods and the farmers’ commitment to zero waste.

NASA has methane on its radar – the prestigious U.S. space organization is studying the “hot spot” of methane emissions in the Four Corners region of the United States leaking from more than 250 oil and gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, coal mines and other fossil fuel facilities as well as methane released from thawing Arctic permafrost.

Finally, we also recommend this interesting read on why utilities have little incentive to plug methane leaks.

See you next month!

August Methane News Round-Up

 

Best Wishes to J. Bocanegra, O&G Subcommittee Co-Chair

javier-photoWith both sadness and pride, GMI’s Administrative Support Group announces that Javier Bocanegra Reyes, GMI’s long-standing Oil & Gas Subcommittee Co-Chair, has retired from Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) as of 15 July 2016, after nearly 33 years of service. Mr. Bocanegra has also stepped down from his role as Co-Chair of the Oil & Gas Subcommittee, a position he had held since the chartering of the Global Methane Initiative as well as since the inception of the program as the Methane to Markets Partnership in 2004.

Alongside Elias Freig of the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) and GMI’s Municipal Wastewater Subcommittee, Mr. Bocanegra spearheaded Mexico’s active participation in GMI. A stalwart fixture of the Initiative for more than a dozen years, Mr. Bocanegra attended and facilitated countless informal meetings, formal subcommittee meetings, and both the 2013 Global Methane Expo and 2015 Global Methane Forum. He was often quick to volunteer as a speaker or panel member, and presented on Mexico’s active engagement in methane management and GMI at numerous meetings. Mr. Bocanegra also participated in other international organizations and associations such as the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) and the Regional Association of Oil, Gas, and Biofuels Sector Companies in Latin American and the Caribbean (ARPEL).pemex logo

Over his many years of service, Mr. Bocanegra represented and promoted both PEMEX and the GMI across Mexico, Latin America and the world. In a message to the ASG, Mr. Bocanegra expressed his gratitude to GMI for the “great support provided to PEMEX to help to understand the importance of reducing methane emissions in its operations” and his pleasure at our collaborations over the years. GMI thanks and congratulates Mr. Bocanegra on the outstanding contributions he has made to the Oil & Gas Subcommittee and to GMI overall.

University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane in Ohio, Colorado, and Texas

CINCINNATI, Ohio, United States — Methane comes from various sources, like landfills, bacterial processes in water, cattle and fracking. In testing methane sources at three national sites, University of Cincinnati geologists found no evidence fracking affected methane concentrations in groundwater in Ohio. At sites in Colorado and Texas, methane sources were found to be mixed, divided between fracking, cattle and/or landfills […]

Source: University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane, Powerful Greenhouse Gas, in Ohio, Colorado and Texas