Baltimore – Making vehicle fuel from landfill gas is not just for the big boys anymore.
Disposal sites no longer have to generate thousands, or even several hundred, cubic feet of landfill gas each minute to make a vehicle fueling system economical to operate, attendees at the recent Landfill Methane Outreach Program Conference and Project Expo in Baltimore learned.
Chris Voell is eastern sales manager with BioCNG/Cornerstone Environmental Group LLC, which develops landfill gas-to-vehicle projects. But he once worked at LMOP, part of the U.S. EPA, years ago.
And, back then, he would tell people that vehicle fueling didn’t make sense for a landfill producing less than 1,000 to 1,500 cubic feet of landfill gas per minute.
“I’m going to show you that this technology can work at a tenth that size or even smaller,” he said at the LMOP conference.
Landfill gas development has been incredibly successful over the years in the United States.
“We are the world leader in this sector by far. However, it may be time for a bit of a course [re]direction,” he said.
There will always be room for projects that create electricity and those that directly pipe gas to end users. But, he said, landfill gas vehicle fuel is a great opportunity in a world uncertain over future petroleum prices.
“There’s an incredible opportunity to turn biogas into a vehicle fuel that I think brings even more to the table,” he said.
Executive Director Katry Martin and the folks at the St. Landry Parish, La., Solid Waste Disposal District didn’t really consider landfill gas at their small disposal site until relatively recently. It was only in 2008 that a gas collection system was even installed.
But thanks to some favorable and timely economics, a project to develop a vehicle fueling system using landfill gas was commissioned soon after.
These days, the county is operating 15 vehicles on CNG taken from the landfill in Washington, La., through what was the state’s first voluntary landfill gas project.
Because of its small size, the parish-owned landfill was not required to collect its gas. But doing so opened up the opportunity to sell carbon emissions credits, and those proceeds have helped pay for the $1 million project. State grant money also helped make the project feasible for the small county with a population of only 90,000 in south-central Louisiana.
St. Landry Parish is using 50 cubic feet per minute of landfill gas to create about 10 gallons of gasoline equivalent each hour. That’s fueling the vehicles for both the solid waste district and the county sheriff’s department. The parish has spent about $200,000 converting the vehicles to natural gas use.
“We just need to expand the fleet,” Martin said, to allow for more consumption of landfill gas. “We’ve got the feedstock.”
The landfill produces about 300 cubic feet per minute of landfill gas, so the potential to significantly expand the use of landfill gas for vehicle fuel does exist.
Voell said adding CNG vehicles is a challenge around the country, which is lagging other parts of the world in adopting the technology.
“We’ve got 5 million NGV, natural gas vehicles, running around the world. This is not new technology. We’ve got everything from scooters to semis running across the globe. Now we are way behind in this, though. We’ve got less than 200,000 natural gas vehicles in the United States,” he said.
The solid waste sector, however, is proving to help lead in the adoption of the technology, he said
Because the St. Landry Parish project has proven to be financially successful, the solid waste director believes it could end up being a model for other smaller parishes to mimic.
“We do have what we think is an exciting project,” Martin said.
“It’s really an exciting time to be in the biogas field,” Voell said. n