Access to renewable energy and fuel is a growing necessity in today’s world as concerns about global climate change rise. In an attempt to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, Dane County plans to use a new process to convert gas from decaying/decomposing trash into fuel for vehicles.
For several years, gases released by the garbage in Dane County’s landfills have been used to generate electricity. However, recent activity has converted this gas into a compressed natural gas, known as CNG. The county hopes to continue its production and selling of this material because it is a more environmentally friendly fuel for vehicles compared to fossil fuels like gasoline.
County Executive Joe Parisi stated, “You know that banana peel someone threw out six months ago and rotted? The gas from that banana peel is being cleaned and placed in the pipeline, along with fueling vehicles.”
According to UW-Madison Mechanical engineering professor Glen Bower, methane is a safer alternative than gasoline. When methane burns in vehicles, it reduces the harmful effects on the environment. Burning methane converts it into carbon dioxide, a far less potent greenhouse gas than methane.
Capturing methane gas from landfills is not a perfect solution, however. Acording to Bower, any natural gas harvested from a landfill has a lower concentration of methane (and more of other kinds of gasses), as compared to fossil fuel natural gas.
To solve this problem, a company calld BioFerms built a facility to increase the amount of methan in landfill CNG. According to BioFerms President and CEO, Nadeem Afgan, any dangerous chemicals will be stripped away from the “healthy” part of the gas.
After processing the natural gas will be pumped into a pipline run by the ANR Pipeline company and sold. The ANR pipline is equipped with sensors to shut down the valve if the CNG quality is too low. Natural gas that fails to satisfy the ANR standard will be burned.
The Environmental Protection Agency continues searching for effective ways to combat the non-methane gasses in landfills. One such gas is carbon dioxide. A possible option is to lock in carbon dioxide by transforming the excess into dry ice.
This is likely one of the first facilities of its kind nationwide. About $29 million was dedicated to the construction of the facility. And Parisi wants the institution to reach a point in which they can fund itself in four years.
[Sources: Madison.com, Dane County; Wisconsin State Journal]