Waste Management Investing US$400 Million In Methane To Electricity Projects

"Waste Management Inc., North America's largest garbage hauler and landfill operator, plans to spend roughly US $400 million at 60 landfills over the next five years to convert methane gas to electricity, its most ambitious renewable energy project to date.

The program includes four landfills in Ontario and two in Quebec. Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the United States, accounting for 34 per cent of such releases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency...In an announcement Wednesday, Waste Management said it will begin building landfill gas-to-energy facilities this year in Texas, Virginia, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois and Wisconsin. It operates 281 landfills in North America, and 100 already have some form of methane-to-energy capabilities. The next 60 will be at the remaining landfills in Waste Management's portfolio with enough gas flow for such projects, said Paul Pabor, vice-president for renewable energy."

Let's think what this announcement means in the context of distributed energy production from local renewable resources, using novel green technology. There's considerable "green" business and patent development work going on with new "bio-reactors" to compost organic waste to produce methane. Much of it to be done in the corporate or college campus setting. Once Waste Management completes its 160 methane-to-electricity projects, what it will have is precisely 160 bio-reactors, a.k.a. biogas plants, but without much of the process technology investment and absent the energy inputs needed to make the anaerobes flourish in a man-made chemical process train. On the other hand, the collection and hauling of waste to centrally managed waste fills outside an urban core is a large C02 emission source. The trade off for areawide waste management includes a public health benefit (excluding rat food and disease vectors from the developed environment) that does not accrue to locally used bio-reactors. Plus, the design life of a landfill for methane production stretches toward the century scale. So, can we really say which is better for the future?
Via:: Canadian Business Online
Image credit: Environment Ministry Of Canada, Quebec

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