Well-drilling began today at the City's Bluff Road landfill as part of a project to capture methane gas produced naturally by the decomposition of waste. The gas collected from the 54 wells will travel through a system of pipes to a facility where it will be burned off in a "flare" to prevent it from reaching the atmosphere. Eventually the City hopes the gas can be used for energy.
"Lincoln is joining the ranks of those cities that are proactively working to realize economic value from their landfill gas to dramatically lower our carbon emissions," said Mayor Chris Beutler. "I have long believed that you can have strong economic development and a cleaner environment, and this project is an excellent example of that reality. It's also an example of acting to clean up our environment without waiting for federal or state mandates."
The Environmental Protection Agency says methane is over 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Landfill gas is about 40 to 60 percent methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide. Currently the gas at the Bluff Road landfill is released through a series of vents.
"Once we are able to collect the gas, we will be able to determine its quality and quantity," said Greg MacLean, Director of the City Public Works and Utilities Department. "We will have enough information by next spring to determine how the gas will best be utilized."
The Bluff Road landfill opened in 1988. About 40 of its 171 acres are now covered, and waste depths range from 60 to 130 feet. The wells will be drilled to depths of 40 to 100 feet on about 60 acres. It's estimated that the 6.1 million tons of buried garage have the potential to produce 1,520 standard cubic feet of methane per minute.
"Testing shows that enough methane could be collected from the landfill to meet the electrical energy needs of about 2,250 households," said Gary Brandt, Utilities Coordinator for the City Public Works and Utilities Department.
Beutler said the initial step to flare the gas will greatly reduce the City's greenhouse gas emissions. It has been estimated the reduction will be equivalent to taking the carbon emissions of 30,780 passenger vehicles out of Lincoln's atmosphere.
Because the City is acting voluntarily to remove greenhouse gas from the environment, the City also can earn carbon credits to market internationally. "The City of Lincoln is poised to join the fast-moving and profitable carbon and energy markets, providing a much-needed new revenue source for the taxpayer," Beutler said.
The City has been working on the project since April 2008 when it solicited bids for engineering services to evaluate its feasibility. The total cost of the project is $2.2 million, and most of the funding comes from fees paid by landfill users. About $53,000 is coming from federal stimulus funds through the City's Cleaner Greener Lincoln initiative, which is coordinating the use of $2.4 million in stimulus funds through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.
More information on the City's solid waste operations is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: landfill).