CHAPTER SEVEN ALLENN HAN ENERGY RECOVERY FROM LANDFILL GAS It may be garbage to everyone else, but to us, its gold. -Mr. Campbell, plant manager for GSF, Allentown, Pennsylvania Introduction Social expectations in current times show a growing support for conservation programs such as curbside recycling, conservation education, and alternative energy sources including reclamation. Much of the state and federal government is following suit through grants, tax breaks, and other such incentives. One such practice is the recovery of landfill gas for energy use. Methane gas comprises almost half of the gas generated from landfills. Since methane is highly combustible and has qualities similar to the common natural gas used in many homes and businesses across the country, the recovered gas may be used as an alternative or recycled form of energy. This project will examine a few of the basic facets required to develop such a technology in the United States with the intention of creating a general protocol to apply toward any part of the world. There will be four main areas of concern including construction and operation, economic analysis, social impact, and global feasibility. Construction and operation considerations will include factors such as location siting, physical restraints, maintenance, and the ability of the landfill to adapt to fluctuating situations such as population. More emphasis will be placed upon the two important areas of economics and social impact. The economic analysis will prove to be extremely important in that the cost effectiveness may well determine the feasibility of such a project. First, it is necessary to determine whether sufficient funding can be met to cover capital costs. If the capital cost can be met, the operational cost will then take precedence. Social impact will play a major role in many decisions. How will it affect the community and their perceptions? What are the local health concerns and how will they be discovered and addressed? Property value will be of great concern to many home and business owners surrounding the location. Politics will enter heavily into the decision of both the construction and operation of the landfill. How will this affect peoples attitudes toward other such projects as incineration and hazardous waste? If government funded or supported, the publics opinion of the government in general and all its other projects, related or not will probably change. Whether it is for the better or for the worse will depend upon their attitudes toward the landfill project and how it is handled. Thus there will be the question of how to increase public awareness, understanding, and communication. This may prove to be the central issue of social impact. Finally there will be an attempt to extrapolate the results to apply to various situations around the world. This will be done in order to obtain a clearer answer to the ultimate question, is widespread use of this growing technology both feasible and acceptable? This section will pull together the issues and results from the other three areas and will use the transition theory proposed by William Drake in Towards Building a Theory of Population Dynamics: A Family of Transition as an aid to policy-makers. This theory states that a period of upheaval occurs when a set of related variables do not switch from being parallel in a simultaneous fashion. The transition occurs as the remaining variables catch up with the variable already changed (Drake, 1993). There will also be an attempt to create a loose protocol for deciding whether a recovery system can be built and how to begin building it. The price of black gold and the incentive to find an alternative fuel Just last year, for the first time in history, oil imports to the United States accounted for more than half of the nations oil consumption with every update in 1995 breaking a new historical record. The Clinton administration has declared rising oil imports a threat to national security (Myerson, 1995). It has been demonstrated that increasing the world price of oil from $28 dollars a barrel to $50 dollars a barrel would cause a greater loss to the U.S. than to any other country, thus implying an embargo against the U.S. would be very successful. A look back through history at the two oil price shocks of the 1970s has proven that dependence upon imported oil is costly and that an increase in imported oil will also increase the risk of disruption. This disruption can be measured through the price of the energy. Figure 1 shows the price of oil peaking during the oil crisis of the mid 70s then dropping down to the approximate level the United States is experiencing today. Perhaps the most startling depiction, is the tremendous amount of fluctuation of the price of oil compared to that of natural gas, which has remained relatively constant throughout the past decades. High oil imports, therefore, put the United States at the mercy of such fluctuations. One way to steady this behavior is to increase domestic production of oil in an attempt to decrease the sensitivity to outside market disturbances. figure 1 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) However, domestic production of oil has been on a decline despite the fact that 90% of all new exploratory drilling is done by the U.S., and with 75% of the estimated total recoverable oil already discovered, a breakthrough is not in sight (Folkerts-Landau, 1984). The data in figure 2 shows energy consumption out growing energy production. The deficit, so far, has been compensated through increasing the amount of energy imported to the U.S. . However, further projections show that, given current trends, the U.S. will still fall short of filling the deficit in the future, even with the inclusion of imports. Later data analysis will show that, to compound the situation, there may be a transition headed towards the reduction of the production of oil as a fuel source. figure 2 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) exponential fit for all data figure 3 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) exponential fit for all data
The prevalent attitude with the lawmakers is to get away from importing energy. It is a policy based upon this previous data, which effects may all be elegantly summed through a simple application of chaos theory (figure 4). Arlinghaus et al. has proposed a chaotic method to view population-environment dynamics, which may also apply to this situation. When data is plotted alongside the line y=x (at which input equals output), the intersections of these two lines, or fixed points, will become either attracting or repelling points, depending upon the area of interest on the x-axis. figure 4 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) exponential fit for energy import data Figure 4 depicts such a relationship. During the mid 60s, the import trend passed a benchmark, an attracting point. At the moment, the United States is between two fixed points. If the stress to increase oil imports were removed, the trend would naturally tend to decline towards the mid 60s level. However, there is a threshold of irreversibility at which point, the natural trend would be to increase out of control towards infinity. If this point, only twenty years away at the year 2015, is breached, imports would become extremely difficult to harness. Therefore, measures must be taken to bend the import curve away from this point in hopes that the future intersection will never occur. To accomplish this, the energy deficit must thus be filled by alternative sources. The administration is currently searching for ways to encourage domestic energy production. Methane recovery is one such method that may be utilized in asserting a little energy independence. Scott Skill, executive director of National Bioindustries Association has forecast, landfill gas could supply 5% of U.S. natural gas needs, and thats a profoundly large number, and one of the ways this country is going to cut its trade deficit (Peterson, 1995). Figure 5 proves a transition towards increased natural gas usage is feasible. It has happened in the past. During a twenty year stretch from 1960 to 1980, United States energy consumption underwent a successful natural gas/coal transition. Coal use dropped dramatically, but an equally dramatic increase in natural gas usage picked up the slack. figure 5 (Source: Annual Energy Review, 1993) Examination of the transitions in United States energy production show that this phenomenon may already be underway (figure 6). There have been many transitions in the past four decades when, at various times, each of the big three energy sources (coal, oil, and natural gas) enjoyed a stay at generating the most energy. However, upon further inspection, it can be seen that oil production has followed a very steady overall decline. Although coal quite recently experienced an increase in production percentage, it, too, is starting to decline. Natural gas is the lone rising major energy source and will soon rank first in percentage of energy production. figure 6 (Source: Annual Energy Review, 1993)
Energy production from waste, such as methane recovery systems, is increasing along with this trend, implying its contribution to natural gas production will be significant (figure 7). Future policy changes, such as ones presented later on, may bend this curve into more of an exponential shape. figure 7 (Source: Annual Energy Review, 1993)
What is methane gas? Methane is the primary component of natural gas and landfill gas and can be generated by the anaerobic (oxygenless environment) bacterial decomposition of organic waste (figure 8). This gas is insoluble in water and lighter than air so it will tend to rise up and out of a landfill into the atmosphere (Lafond, 1992). Methane is emitted primarily by anthropogenic sources which account for about 70% of all global emissions. Landfills are the largest anthropogenic source in the United States with the equivalent of 6750 MegaWatts of electricity generating capacity escaping to the sky last year; enough to power more than four million homes (Hogan ed., 1993). figure 8 (Source: Chestnut, 1991) Since methane can be produced through the decomposition of organic materials only, it is important to characterize a potential sites garbage content when determining if a landfill energy recovery project is feasible. Composition varies slightly from site to site within a country, and may greatly vary from actual country to country (figure 9). figure 9 (Source: Qian, 1995) In the United States, approximately three quarters of municipal waste is organic. Due to the advent of widespread recycling, the organic content of garbage will continue to rise as glass, metals, and aluminum are separated from the waste stream. Figure 10 depicts this forthcoming transition towards a more organic composition with organic content rising sharper than the inorganic composition. figure 10 (Source: Qian, 1995) So why retrieve landfill gas? On the mildest and most local level, it is considered a plain nuisance, causing the unpleasant odor so much associated with decomposing garbage. There is also a much more serious health issue. Aside from the release of harmful volatile organic carbons (VOCs), the methane which comprises the majority of landfill gas is obviously extremely combustible and possesses the insidious ability to migrate underground (Lafond, 1992). Quite recently, a Madison, Wisconsin, apartment exploded when a tenant lit a cigarette, with the most plausible explanation being traveling gas from the nearby landfill (Eldred, 1986). Local vegetation may also be affected. Not too long ago, the ground was bare at the Carne Landfill in New Jersey. The plants would take up the methane in their roots and die. However, ever since the recovery project began, there have been definite signs of spring growth all around (Peterson, 1995). On a slightly grander scale, smog can be created given the proper atmospheric conditions, along with acid rain. And on the grandest global scale, both carbon dioxide and methane are major greenhouse gases. Methane is pound for pound more potent than carbon dioxide, responsible for roughly 18% of the total contribution to radiative forcing, a measure of global warming. Atmospheric methane concentrations have risen sharply at about .6% per year and have more than doubled in the last two centuries. The good news is that much of these effects can be avoided through the reclamation and combustion of landfill gas. Generators used for this purpose are very efficient and are able to combust these compounds breaking them down into components having little or no effect on the environment (Carolan, 1987). Aside from producing this clean-burning methane, the reclamation displaces the coal or petroleum that would generally be used in its place (Hogan, 1993). Similarly, the local community benefits by retaining revenue that would otherwise have been used to import the energy from an outside source (Lafond, 1992. Naturally, this would also work on a macroscopic level. The EPA is recognizing these benefits and are pushing for future regulation requiring the collection and monitoring of landfall gas. More and more landfill owners and operators are realizing that while they may not reap royalties, the activity is still positive. (Carolan, 1987). Part I: Construction and Operation Siting Siting a landfill is perhaps the most complex and certainly the most time-consuming step in constructing a landfill. At present day, 50% of all landfills catch their repose in rural areas, while 25% are placed on industrial land, and the remaining 25% on other properties. However, while a fill may be located well outside a city, urban growth often catches up and overgrows the host community, thus changing its site into residential land (Atwater, Dec 1989). There is such a variety of facets to the decisions, it is difficult to find an equitable approach. One method put forth by Swallow et al in his study, Siting Noxious Facilities, seems to give a fair general overview combining approaches across several disciplines. A sound method should address both technical and sociological concerns. The technical side should include expert advise regarding engineering, safety, and environmental criteria (Swallow, 1992). It is important to make an attempt to foresee the unexpected. The Seattle Midway Landfill was a model site until toxins were illegally dumped into it (Eldred, 1986). The sauce-political approach should emphasize public access to the decision-making process. Swallow proposes a three-stage approach. Stage 1, the first stage, examines which sites have the physical requirements for a waste facility. This includes the availability and cost of the land, hydrology, topography, and climate. Care must be taken to balance these factors since some of the preferred criteria are contradictory. Case in point, the site should be in close proximity and accessible to the primary waste-producing urban center. However, it is generally best to locate far from residential neighborhoods. This stage produces a long list of possible sites that will further be narrowed by stage 2, social suitability. This section involves the education of the public and determination of long term effects on the community. Issues unearthed at this stage will be delved into further in the discussion of social impact. This is arguably the most important consideration. All concerns are debated at this point and a short list is created of perhaps two or three communities. It is noteworthy that it is also at this juncture that many solely economically-based selection models break down. The final decision is made at third stage. The basic concern is finding an acceptable compensation package. It many cases, the compensation to the host community is so alluring, the final selectees will auction for the right. An obvious drawback to this system is the ample room available for political manipulation. This can partially be avoided by clearly announcing beforehand , the criteria set for both the long and short lists (Swallow, 1992). How is methane retrieved? Methane production begins approximately one or two years after waste placement. The lag time accounts for the amount of time taken to deplete the oxygen in the fill so that anaerobic methanogenesis may thrive. A series of blowers and compressors create a vacuum inside the landfill. This pressure funnels the gas into perforated pipes which, in turn, head toward the cleanup facility where the gas is filtered and heated to remove the moisture (Qian, 1995). What to do once it is recovered Once retrieved, landfill gas can be used in one of three ways. It can be cleaned and compressed to pipeline quality, then sold to a natural gas distributor. The cost to upgrade gas is quite expensive, but the landfill is able to sell it directly to a power company without having to identify a specific customer. A second option combusts the gas in an on location generator. The energy is then generally used for maintenance needs on the site itself. The third, and most profitable option, if it is available, is to sell it to an industrial plant as medium grade boiler fuel, which contains about half the energy value of pipeline natural gas used residentially. Ideally, the medium grade fuel customer would be located no more than five miles away (Hogan, 1993). Fluctuations in both demand for energy and seasonal waste generation may be handled by mixing in mined natural gas when needed (Lafond, 1992). Estimating methane output (figure 11) There are numerous methods used to estimate the generation of landfill gas. A simple equation derived by the EPA in a 1993 report to congress on Opportunities to Reduce Anthropogenic Methane Emissions in the U.S. offers a quick, handy recipe. For landfills over 1 Mg: methane (m3/min) = 8.22 + 5.27 W where W = amount of waste measured in Mg (106 grams) For landfills under 1 Mg: methane (m3/min) = 7.43 W where W = amount of waste measured in Mg (106 grams) For each of the above equations, it is standard to assume a 85% efficiency (Hogan, 1993). figure 11 (Source: Hogan, 1993)
Note: There is a significant amount of uncertainty in determining the exact amount of waste generated in a country, thus a range of estimates is often given when depicting trends for large areas, such as the United States. Part 2: Economics Ultimately, the profitability of a landfill gas recovery will depend largely on the price of energy at which the site is located (John, 1995). These recovery systems are highly sensitive to fluctuations of market energy prices. At an expected price of 5"/kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the year 2000, it is profitable to recover methane from more than half of all U.S. landfills. A penny less per kWh, and it would feasible to recover gas from just 15% of all landfills. A penny more, however, and the figure rises to 75%. Currently, prices range from 2"/kWh to 10"/kWh, with an average of 6"/kWh (Hogan, 1993) (figure 12). As common sense dictates, recovery works best where energy prices are high or where there is a population boom requiring power companies to find more power (Eldred, 1986). It may be useful to seek out locations with population dynamic transitions showing a simultaneous population boom and energy transition toward natural gas or alternative fuel. figure 12 (Source: Hogan, 1993) The low, average, and high estimates correspond to the possible charge for electricity of 4"/kWh, 5"/kWh, and 6"/kWh, respectively. As is apparent, the sensitivity of these recovery projects is extremely high. Currently, the United States is on the path following the high estimate. The economic future of landfill gas generation is bright. New federal tax credits are increasing the value of gas for many landfills. Specifically, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 extended the Section 29 tax credit for non-conventional energy production until the year 2008. The credit is approximately equivalent to 1"/kWh. An additional savings may be redeemed through the cost of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2). Since CO2 is a major greenhouse gas, it is advantageous to reduce CO2 emissions. The estimated cost of doing so is approximately $15 per ton. Since this recovery process not only reduces methane emissions, but CO2 emissions also, an additional savings of about 2"/kWh may be attached. Plus, the savings from displacing the fossil fuel that would otherwise have been used to create the energy totals to approximately .6"/kWh (calculating 1.5 lb CO2 avoided per kWh). The overall savings from the Section 29 tax credit and the cost effectiveness of reducing CO2 is about 3.5"/kWh. This assistance is significant noting the sensitivity of the recovery system to energy price (Hogan, 1993). Estimating collection system cost Again, the 1993 EPA report to congress provides a handy equation for estimating cost. Collection System Capital Cost = W.8 * $470,000 where W = amount of waste measured in Mg (106 grams) Operational and maintenance cost = 10% of Capital Cost includes 6% for labor-related cost (such as wages and overhead) + 4% non-labor-related cost (such as administrative and insurance) (Hogan, 1993). Estimating generator cost MW = methane (m3/min) * .1765 Capital Cost = $1,200,000 per MW Operational Cost = 13% of Capital Cost (Hogan, 1993) Part 3: Social Impact Property Value Property value depreciation is often one of the reasons for host community opposition to the siting of a new waste facility (Atwater, Dec 1989) Landfills affect many environmental and social characteristics, all of which are generally reflected in the property value of a home. Issues of concern to home owners include the scenic view (or lack thereof), quiet, safety, health, risk, nuisances, social impact of a stigma on the community, environmental change, government property value, the unfairness of one area being impacted while other surrounding neighborhoods enjoy benefits, loss of confidence in the government, and retardation of residential development (Atwater, Sept 1989). The December follow-up study to the September property value study surveyed homeowners with respect to their objections to a landfill (table 1). The shear nuisance of the landfill was the major concern. However, all the impacts are theoretically inherent in the property value. Facility Impacts on Neighborhood Proportion of Residents with Negative Beliefs Nuisances 66 % Health Risks 45 % Property Values 41 % Community Image 41 % table 1 (Source: Atwater, Dec 1989) One way to compensate homeowners for a perceived loss in property value is to offer property value guarantees. A property value guarantee ensures the homeowners of the hypothetical fair market value of the home as if the landfill never existed. The guarantee is valid even to the point where the landfill owner will buy the house if it is not sold within nine months. A study by Atwater and Zeiss on the effect of landfills on property values examined 15 case studies covering a variety of both rural, urban, and suburban locations. The results were surprising in the sense that they could find no strong correlation between the landfill and its host community. Out of the 15 cases ranging equally from rural to suburban to urban communities, 6 cases showed a decline in property value, 8 cases showed no effect, and one case exhibited an actual increase in property value. Of the landfills studied with recovery systems, they found waste-to-energy plants that use the latest technology and are operated cleanly did not impact on residential property value or development. Property value guarantees, although unnecessary for monetary compensation, were found useful for the simple fact that they acknowledged community concerns (Atwater, Sept 1989) However, in a follow-up study and survey, only 50% of the people polled found property value guarantees acceptable compensation, therefore, it is only a marginally effective public relations tool (Atwater, Dec 1989). How to Communicate with the Host Community Many landowners agree that demonstrating concern for proper environmental management is the proper way to position the industry with the public. Therefore, reclamation projects such as energy recovery in its essence, can create good public relations (Carolan, 1989). The education of and communication with the host community is both the major and most volatile component of the landfill creation process. In the past, siting was generally dictated through a economical-political process. The public did not have much input into the events that would affect them. This brought about such issues as environmental racism which generally targeted poorer communities that were not able to object to waste facilities placed in their district. This process can be greatly improved by creating a dialogue between the landfill owners and the public. An excellent case study of such a dialogue is the siting of the Maricopa County Landfill in Arizona which incorporated town meetings and liaisons as a communication link. Four hundred angry residents attended the first meeting. The county received the message and immediately expanded the site selection using frequent town meetings to obtain suggestions from the public for possible locations. A hierarchy was also created through the establishment of advisory and steering committees. The districts elected official, Carole Carpenter, made sure the county was given adequate information, the advisory committee was alerted to all decisions, and the media was well informed. This was crucial to ensure that facts were always in tact and residents could still gather information if they were unable to physically attend the meetings. Carpenter encouraged the airing of all concerns, debates are just part of the process to arrive at a consensus about a landfill site that is not only environmentally sound, but socially acceptable (Landfill Siting..., 1986). Twenty-four original sites were narrowed down to seven, which the advisory committee carefully analyzed. When it came time to make the final site selection at a town meeting, not one person objected. The meticulous system worked, and the Deputy County Engineer noted, we werent getting anywhere until the people got involved in the study. Through public meetings, they learned about landfills, and they educated us about what was important to their neighborhoods and them (Landfill Siting..., 1986). The process was time consuming, but as Carpenter explained, the public involvement process takes time, but people should recognize a year or so is not a long time to go through a successful process for siting and starting up a landfill (Landfill Siting..., 1986) This siting method, which closely follows the method proposed by Swallow et al, should be widely implemented with careful consideration that the town meetings not be used as persuasion by either side, rather as an informational session and dialogue. Any scientific experts involved should be careful to simply explain the situation rather than justify any proposed decisions (Kaminstein, 1990). How to compensate a host community Every discussion with the host community, particularly during the final selection, will include a compensation package unique to the concerns of the public. There are four logical, sequential steps that may be used to describe this compensation. Step one is prevention. This includes technical safeguards against accidents or malfunctions. The use of buffer zones between the landfill and the community has also become a popular additional prevention technique. The second step is control. This mainly accounts for the construction of the landfill and include various liner, filtration, and monitoring systems (Atwater, Sept 1989). A resident of the Seattle Midway Landfill community, Denny Clark, was worried about his children growing up near the site, but now applauds the owners for aggressively installing monitoring probes and measures to vent the methane gas (Eldred, 1986). The third step is mitigation. If an accident should occur, it is important that proper corrective measures be quickly implemented (Atwater, Sept 1989). The three mile island accident is an example of successful mitigation. The property value of the surrounding community did not decrease, despite the highly publicized mishap. This has generally been attributed to the expectation of government assistance, the absence of visible damage, and the very visible influx of troops of cleanup workers (Atwater, Dec 1989). Finally, step four is compensation in the form of cash or services (Atwater, Sept 1989). An increasing number of landfills are developing public parks on inactive landfill sites. As part of the deal to accept the landfill, the Palm Beach Landfill in Florida has created an enormous park to meet the growing needs of adult recreation. It includes twelve miles of cycling paths, a thirty-three acre waterway for canoeing and fishing, along with horse trails, a model airplane field, and even a golf course. The distinguishing characteristic is the ninety-foot lookout mound from which pedestrians can spot local landmarks including the neighboring active waste-to-energy facility (Palm Beach..., 1995). Part 4: Global Feasibility Barriers and policies to overcome them 1. Low electricity prices In general, methane recovery is only feasible from large, urban landfills. The exact size, however, depends largely on the electricity price. Unfortunately, landfill energy projects are highly sensitive to fluctuating prices. A small dip in cents per kWh translates into a large dip in profits. By the same token, fortunately, landfills are highly sensitive to fluctuating prices. This implies that a mild government tax break or incentive program, such as Section 29, can be used to augment the profitability and thus neutralize the detrimental effects of low market prices. The current U.S. tax policy is adequate for encouraging landfill recovery projects. The tax structure has already kept the average adjusted charge for electricity from energy recovery projects at 6"/kWh. Thus, 75% of landfill methane can theoretically be recovered. Any increase in the tax break would be a step into diminishing returns. 2. Potential liability for financial backers and system operators In the United States, under CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act), the owner and operator of a landfill may become solely responsible for the costly cleanup if hazardous conditions should occur. This scares away many investors who are needed to assemble the high capital cost. This may be handled in three ways. Governments may fund research for the development of cheaper cleanup technologies in order to reduce the amount of the liability. New insurance structures may be looked at to provide better, more affordable coverage. Also, legislative action may be utilized to spread out the liability cost among more of the responsible parties. 3. Siting and Permitting Concerns Energy recovery landfills have the best chance of success if they are sited close to an urban center experiencing a population boom. However, the permitting standards are also stricter around these areas. It can be very costly to meet the permitting requirements. One way this may be overcome is to develop more efficient low emission technologies such as fuel cells, which chemically convert methane directly into usable energy bypassing the reactor, thus making it easier to meet the standards. This can be achieved through governmental funding of both public and private research projects. The opposite approach is to grant waivers or provide special permitting for environmentally beneficial projects that can prove a high benefit-to-cost relationship. 4. Perception of high risk Most alternative energy production technologies are viewed as unproven and risky. This high risk perception may be voided by publicizing the reliability and profitability of methane recovery projects already in existence. In the case of the United States, an outreach program could be developed to provide information on the over one hundred successful U.S. projects already in existence today. 5. Development cost of technology The high cost of technology hinders the development of new, more efficient technologies. Again, the government can fund and develop both private and public research programs. 6. Lack of information A landfill may be a prime site for methane recovery, yet the owner may simply be unaware of the recovery option. Or, if aware of the option, may not have the know-how to implement it. For instance, 85% of the landfills in the U.S. are owned by local governments whose only responsibility is to adequately store municipal solid waste. Since it is not their primary concern, they may be unaware of the ability to take the process one or two steps further. An outreach program can be developed by the government to provide publicity and technical information on the construction and operation of a waste-to-energy landfill (Hogan, 1993). This also brings in the issue of public versus private management. Smaller plants are particularly sensitive to the performance and efficiency of the management. Many vendors argue that private managers are better equipped to handle emergencies. Public management may become too bogged down in bidding contracts which can be slow and political. However, advocates of public ownership argue that it is best to keep a local landfill under local control. A publicly owned landfill can also theoretically be run at a lower cost since it would be a non-profit operation (Carolan, 1987). By Section of the World Waste in developing countries is expected to increase at a much faster rate than the industrialized countries. This trend is attributed to projections of higher population growth rather than an increase in per capita consumption (Hogan, 1993). Transition theory may be an incredibly powerful tool used to help site energy recovery projects around the world. Through the examination of indicator variables, it can be determined which areas are primed for this technology. General trends can be depicted to determine if there is a need for the energy, if enough gas can be generated to make it economically feasible, and if the physical building blocks exist. Perhaps the most important contribution transition theory can offer to this application, is the ability to time when these variables will occur in the proper combinations. Knowing when sites may be ready to accept this technology is extremely valuable when creating policy, and determining how to spend funds and when. A few examples of this technique will be applied to several test countries in the following section. Three transitions will be examined. The first plots energy consumption and production to determine if there is an energy deficit to be filled, such as the extreme case of the United States. The second transition checks if the country is in the midst of an urban boom. As has been stated, these projects are best situated around areas experiencing rapid urban growth and a natural gas demand. The third relationship takes another step past the urban boom to determine if the infrastructure is in place to allow recovery projects. It is not enough that the project creates energy, the energy must also have a path to flow to the consumers. To determine the state of the infrastructure for natural gas, natural gas production is plotted. If there is a boom in natural gas production, the country will most likely have the means to distribute the energy, This underlines another asset of the transition theory as a tool. Transitions with indirect relationships can be used to express a variable that may otherwise be difficult to obtain. Africa and the Middle East Municipal solid waste (MSW) generation is .7 kg per person per day (Hogan, 1993). There is a need for greater technological development before recovery systems can be installed. Energy recovery requires the control granted by a sanitary landfill as opposed to the smaller, simpler dumping landfills which are more frequently found in this geographical area. More effort also must be diverted into creating markets for the end product of an energy recovery system, including the infrastructure required to provide it. At this point, resources should be used to improve waste handling and landfill design before methane recovery can be considered. Asia MSW generation is .6 kg per person per day. Asia is responsible for 16% of the global generation of methane from landfills. Some countries are upgrading their collection methods by using compacting trucks and covered containers. This would decrease the amount of scavenging and increase the amount of waste placed in landfills. In addition, the increasing population will also increase the amount of waste. However, economic constraints and a history of slow waste management development indicate that the use of sanitary landfills will not significantly increase in the near future. Efforts should be made to develop recovery systems for the sanitary landfills that do exist and will grow in volume. figure 13 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) Figure 13 shows Indias energy deficit. Although relatively small, the gap is significant and is showing growth. Now may be an opportune time to begin developing technologies to prevent the gap from exploding. figure 14 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) India does not seem to currently be in a rapid urban transition. Therefore, areas of densely packed population, which is ideal for energy recovery from landfills, may not be increasing at a fast enough rate to make this technology feasible. figure 15 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) However, India does show an incredible boom in natural gas production, along with an exponentially increasing urban population, albeit fairly steady compared to the overall population. Therefore, now may be the time to begin planning for widespread recovery. Europe MSW generation is .6 kg per person per day. Europe is responsible for 20% of the global generation of methane from landfills. Some countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany plan to increase recycling and incineration which would decrease the volume placed in landfills. However, the technology is in place to implement methane recovery and many of the Western European countries in particular have the infrastructure available to distribute the recovered energy. Many of these countries such as England are actively researching recovery techniques. Although no Eastern European country currently has a gas recovery system, there is tremendous opportunity for widespread implementation. Sanitary landfills or open dumps are the exclusive methods used for handling waste in most of these countries (as opposed to incineration). A growing number of these countries, such as Poland, are phasing out open dumps in favor of sanitary landfills. Natural Power, a U.S. based company is currently working with Kiev, Ukraine to develop a recovery system. Other such outreach programs to Eastern European countries could prove to be successful. figure 16 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995)
The former U.S.S.R. has kept its energy transition fairly steady. it is not in a desperate situation right now, at least as a whole (figure 16). figure 17 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995)
However, it is starting to experience a slow urbanization which may accelerate in the near future (figure 17). figure 18 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) Although the urbanization is relatively slow, the gas fuel production has skyrocketed (figure 18). Therefore, the former U.S.S.R. has the means, but not yet the demand. It should be recommended at this time that work is pursued to create markets for landfill energy and that the state of sanitary landfills be improved and updated to meet standards required for recovery. The Americas MSW generation is 1.8 kg per person per day. The Americas are responsible for half of the global generation of methane from landfills. Sanitary land filling is the predominant method for waste disposal. There is a great number of growing urban areas with the demand and infrastructure necessary to distribute the energy. Municipal solid waste generation is also expected to increase making this section of the world best primed for widespread implementation of this technology, particularly in the North American countries. South America has fewer gas to energy systems, but is showing vested interest and a willing for commitment to this technology (Hogan, 1993). figure 19 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) It has already clearly been shown that the United States desperately needs to become energy independent. There is no urban boom, but there is a slight, erratic rise in gas fuel production (figure 20, 21). figure 20 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) This is a good example of the limitations of transition theory for this application. The data show a tremendous need, yet the United States is experiencing neither an urban boom nor a steady explosion in natural gas production. Yet, the United States is the prime candidate for this technology. In this case, transition theory gave too vague a trend. Further exploration reveals that the rise in organic content of the waste and the extremely high per capita waste production will compensate for the lack of rapid urbanization. This is a case in which transition theory shows a mild propensity , but more research must follow to determine the exact extent. Australia MSW generation is 1.1 kg per person per day (Hogan, 1993). There are few highly urbanized areas in Australia with landfills large enough to make a recovery system profitable. However, the technology and infrastructure are in place for the few landfills which are potential candidates. figure 21 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) If India is almost primed for an energy recovery system, the former U.S.S.R. must wait and prepare, and the United States analysis gives a lukewarm result, then Australia is on the other end of the scale. It is actually experiencing increasing exports as its production outruns its consumption (figure 21). There is no urban boom (figure 22). In fact, there is even a slight divergence between total and urban population. figure 22 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) figure 23 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) Again, Australia does have the know-how and equipment, there is just very little demand (figure 23). The future of landfills in the U.S. The state of landfills in the Unites States may mirror prospects in many of the other highly industrialized countries, and may be an indicator of the far future of countries in the later stages of industrial development. As the average landfill size increases, as will be the case according to a recent EPA report to congress, energy recovery will become more profitable and feasible. With the Section 29 tax break in place for at least another thirteen years, an average rate of 5"/kWh is reasonable. At this rate, about 750 of the current landfills in the U.S. can profitably recover methane and produce about 4000 MW of energy. To reduce the air pollution, the EPA will soon require all landfills to collect and combust the gas produced (Hogan, 1993). In addition, the growth of recycling programs and attitudes change the composition of municipal solid waste. Much of the plastic and metal, which do contribute to methane generation, will be removed from the waste stream while the organic content, which does contribute to methane generation, increases. This means landfills will become more efficient producers of methane (Peterson, 1995). Conclusion figure 24 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) In a time where world population is starting to become a concern for many areas of the world if not all areas, more must be done to meet the exponentially growing needs of this world community (figure 24). Landfill gas recovery is a technology that can actually harness urban growth and transform it into a positive force. figure 25 (Source: World Resource Database, 1995) As figure 25 indicates, this technology will most likely first impact the Americas and Europe. These two areas have both the highest amount of technology and are both major sources of methane emissions, a good match. It is up to these nations to research and refine the system so that other sections, such as Asia, may follow suit when the time comes. Asia has a high methane emission output, it simply needs the technology to make this recovery economically viable. The world can no longer depend on the diminishing oil and coal reserves for its future energy needs. Alternative energy sources are available and can be made feasible in the near future. In all likelihood, oil and coal will not be replaced by one single new energy source that can be globally transported and used in a similar fashion. Rather, they will most likely be replaced by alternative local energy sources specific to the unique characteristics of each area. Landfill energy will never be a major global source of energy, but will surely be a major local source of energy with more and more communities benefiting every year.
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Appendix Some successful examples Landfills remain a largely untapped natural gas reserve capable of producing large amounts of energy. Although a general global approach was taken in this paper, methane gas recovery systems are extremely sensitive to the surrounding environmental, economical, and socio-political conditions. Therefore, the benefits are harvested locally. Each particular site will have its own set of nuances and the feasibility of each site must be determined individually. Here are some examples of locally successful landfills: Handling fluctuations in supply and demand - Racine Landfill, Wisconsin The surrounding community of this eight acre site is highly susceptible to seasonal fluctuations in energy demand, yet the rate of waste generation is fairly steady. To compensate, the designers incorporated a system to simultaneously combust landfill gas and raw natural gas piped in from an outside source. Therefore, if more energy is needed, more natural gas can simply be added. The system also burns off hazardous waste solvents further reducing air pollution. The design has won the Wisconsin Governors Award for Energy Innovation and the National Energy Conservation Award from the U.S. Department of Energy (Lafond, 1993). The longevity of energy - Burnsville Landfill, Minnesota The Burnsville Landfill creates 3.2 MW of energy meeting the energy needs of the 2000 surrounding community homes. Although this landfill is closed, estimates show that Burnsville can depend on landfill electricity for another twenty years (In Minnesota..., 1994). A growing resource - Amityville Landfill, Pennsylvania A recovery system was added to the active Amityville Landfill. Originally designed for 1 MW of electricity, it expanded two years later to 1.5 MW. Currently, the landfill produces 2 MW of electricity with future plans to add yet another generator (Chestnut, 1991). Paying for itself - Riverview Landfill, Michigan Electricity produced at the Riverview Landfill is sold directly to the Detroit Edison electric company. Thus, the landfill operator does not need to be concerned with finding a specific customer for the end product. Within two years, the landfill owner recovered the capital cost and proceeds are now being added to Riverviews cash flow (Alperovitz, 1994). A community improves their local economy - Glendale Landfill, California Says John Cosulich, supervising engineer, Its a win, win situation all the way. The treated recovered gas from the Glendale is currently being sold to the city at a 12% discount from what it used to pay for imported natural gas. Not only does the discount improve Glendales cash flow, the locally generated energy as opposed to the imported energy improves the economy of the town (Lou Chen, 1994). Enough energy to spare - Puente Hills Landfill, California This is the biggest methane gas recovery project in the country. Despite the capital cost of 33 million dollars and an annual operating cost of 3.6 million dollars, this site generates a revenue of 8.7 million dollars every year (John, 1995). Into the future, Not just for homes anymore Next year, during the 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta has plans to shuttle athletes throughout the city in natural gas-powered buses. EPA restrictions will encourage automobiles to have near zero emissions in the near future. Compressed natural gas cars are one of major solutions (Peterson, 1995).