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[GreenYes] Re: Bioreactors and "green energy"?

Thanks, Eric, for posting this. It¹s my good old hometown, Columbia, MO!

Sure would be nice if Peter Anderson were still on this list serve to get
the conversation heated up. Imagine, 2.5% of a city¹s energy needs in 10
years time! There is no mention of operating costs (which must mean this
baby will run cheap), but $1.6 million to build the unit is pretty
inexpensive (which really makes me wonder about the philosophy of low bid
public procurement). Also, only 40,000-50,000 gallons of water a day. energy, huh? I wonder if they calculated the amount of energy
saved through recycling, composting and waste reduction of the same

All funnin¹ aside, we are entering a new phase of technology experimentation
in this land of plenty. We all need to be on our toes. Recycling and
composting is now seen as old school.

David Biddle, Executive Director
Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council
P.O. Box 4037
Philadelphia, PA 19118

215-247-3090 (desk)
215-432-8225 (cell)


Read In Business magazine to learn about sustainable
businesses in communities across North America!
Go to: <>

on 2/13/07 10:30 AM, Eric Lombardi at eric@no.address wrote:

> Greetings all,
> The language of change are like the pixels that form an image. Thus, the
> landfill industry is in the process of defining itself as a ³green energy²
> contributor to our society ? and we all know how warm and fuzzy that idea is
> these days.
> This recent article (below) paints the picture for the public of what the
> landfill industry wants a ³bioreactor² to be viewed as. They have the EPA in
> their corner supporting them, and they will probably get the majority of the
> DNR¹s across the nation to support them as well because they are painting a
> pretty picture here? a solution that doesn¹t make anyone change their
> lifestyles ? a solution that makes the problem go away AND produce a social
> good ? green energy. Plus, it appears to be a genuine improvement over the
> dry-tomb landfill (and that is another issue I think we need to discuss
> later). We have our work cut out for us if we are to be successful in keeping
> the bioreactor landfill from hurting the Zero Waste future society we all
> envision.
> I want to create a list of the ³Top Five Reasons the Bioreactor is a Trojan
> Horse² ? in other words, it may look like a gift, but in fact hidden from view
> are the following threats? and on top of my list is
> (1) the ³Life-cycle methane capture rate² ? is it really only 20% with the
> best available technology today? If so, then I think we should be calling
> bioreactors ³GHG Belching Machines²;
> Anyone else have any candidates for the Top Five list?
> Eric
> <>
> Whiff of green energy lurks in city landfill
> Plans call for first landfill bioreactor in Missouri
> February 12, 2007
> How a bioreactor landfill works
> According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a bioreactor landfill
> is one that ³operates to rapidly transform and degrade organic waste.² In a
> traditional landfill, waste is dumped into a ³dry tomb,² covered and allowed
> to decompose naturally in the absence of oxygen, which inhibits the process.
> The anaerobic bioreactor proposed for the Columbia landfill will use the same
> system but inject 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of water per day into the tomb,
> called a ³cell.² The water will be recirculated through the cell to facilitate
> the growth of bacteria that will rapidly decompose organic material such as
> paper, food scraps and wood, freeing up more space for incoming waste and
> producing more methane, which can be used as fuel.
> There are plenty of places to find cutting-edge research and technology in
> Columbia. One place you might not think to look, however, is inside a giant
> pile of trash.
> Columbia is expected to finalize a contract this week with Jefferson City¹s
> Frank Twehous Excavating Co. to begin construction on what could become the
> first landfill bioreactor in Missouri. At nearly $1.6 million, Twehous¹ bid is
> about $260,000 less than the closest competitor, Fretco Inc. of Warrensburg.
> The methane gas produced by the bioreactor and existing traditional fills is
> estimated to account for about 2.5 percent of Columbia¹s energy needs in 10
> years, when the facility would be operating at full capacity.
> The methane would be converted into about 17,010 megawatts of electricity per
> year, or enough to power 1,739 homes.
> ³This has been a project that¹s been on the table since 2000,² said Richard
> Wieman, solid waste utility manager at the Columbia Sanitary Landfill. ³It¹s
> designed to study how well (bioreactor technology) works or doesn¹t work.²
> Other bioreactors, such as those located at the Waste Management­Outer Loop
> Landfill in Louisville, Ky., have seen considerable success. The Kentucky
> facility opened its first two bioreactors in 2000 and has since added three
> more, covering over 40 acres and capable of holding a total of 5 million tons
> of trash. Using 130 wellheads and a new experimental collection system called
> multi-plane, the facility captures about 3,600 cubic feet of natural gas per
> minute, which is used to heat a nearby General Electric manufacturing
> plant.Gary Hater, bioreactor program director at the Louisville facility, saw
> his operations personnel assume management of the on-site bioreactors from the
> research team just last year.
> (TYLER METZGER/Missourian)
> ³We¹ve progressed out of the experimental stage,² he said. ³It¹s working well
> with operations personnel, and we¹re at a point where we¹re making sure our
> operations are correct. This is proof that this system is doable.²
> Risky business
> Starting a bioreactor isn¹t as easy as digging a hole and filling it with
> water and trash. There are certain risks associated with any landfill,
> including the escape of gas, stability issues due to the shifting of
> decomposing material, and leachate, potentially hazardous liquid that could
> breach the liner at the bottom of the landfill and enter the water supply.
> The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is responsible for approving the
> design and construction of a new landfill to ensure it meets environmental
> safety standards. Because this project is the first of its kind in Missouri,
> no such procedure existed for bioreactors until Jan. 16 of this year, when the
> federal Environmental Protection Agency approved the DNR¹s authority to allow
> the bioreactor in Columbia.
> ³We¹re learning, in a way,² said Jim Hull, director of the DNR¹s Solid Waste
> Management Program. ³We¹ve never approved a bioreactor before. The main things
> we¹re looking for are an appropriate site and an acceptable design.²
> Hull expects the permit request from the city ³any time,² and has sent members
> of his staff to bioreactor design training and on tours of bioreactor sites in
> other states to prepare them for the review of the Columbia design. When the
> application is received, a team of engineers, hydrologists and soil experts
> will have up to six months to approve or reject the design proposed by Camp,
> Dresser & McKee Inc., the Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm hired by
> Columbia to oversee planning and construction of the bioreactor.
> The proposed bioreactor would also be a first for Lisa Harrison, the CDM
> project manager in charge of the bioreactor design and construction.
> Harrison expects to have the landfill cell? the earthen construction that
> holds the trash ? finished by the end of this summer, at which point waste and
> high-density polyethylene piping would begin to fill the dry tomb. After about
> two years of trash has accumulated, pending DNR approval, water would begin
> flowing through the pipes and the decomposition rate would rapidly increase,
> if everything goes as planned.
> John Bowders, of the MU Department of Civil Engineering, said the effect of
> water-aided decomposition can be dramatic.
> Settlement, the reduction of the amount of waste in a cell, is usually around
> 5 percent to 20 percent over 30 years in a dry tomb. When a bioreactor is
> activated, the settlement figures can be from 30 percent to 50 percent over
> five to 10 years. That means the height of accumulated waste in a cell could
> be reduced from 100 feet to as little as 50 feet in a few years.
> The decomposing waste in a landfill cell doesn¹t just disappear, however. The
> organic material is converted into a problem that has plagued landfill
> operators for a long time ? natural gas.
> From trash to useful gas
> Zhiqiang Hu of the MU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said
> that although it is difficult to name all the bacteria involved in landfill
> decomposition, the primary group is called methanogens. As they break down
> organic material, methanogens produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more
> potent than carbon dioxide and a major factor in climate change, according to
> the EPA. Due to the accelerated rate of decomposition in a bioreactor, methane
> gas is produced at a much higher rate than in dry tomb landfills, which
> already are the primary source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.
> The Columbia Sanitary Landfill is equipped with technology enabling the
> capture of landfill gas, preventing damage to the environment and providing an
> opportunity for a new fuel source. The landfill has been collecting methane
> since 1994, but not in sufficient volumes to produce electricity. The methane
> is currently burnt off, or flared.
> ³It¹s simply a matter of getting enough garbage in place to make (methane
> collection) an economical project,² Wieman said.
> With the continued filling of existing cells and the possible increase in
> methane production from the proposed bioreactor, Columbia would stand ready to
> harness the natural gas as an alternative source of energy. The new design can
> accommodate four engines capable of converting the captured gas into
> electricity. Wieman plans to start with two engines and add more as the rising
> level of stored waste produces more gas. Coupled with the city¹s recent
> agreement to purchase electricity produced from natural gas at the dry tomb
> landfill in Jefferson City, this new source of fuel would put Columbia well
> ahead of alternative energy goals mandated by voters in a 2004 ballot
> referendum.
> If the plans receive DNR approval, Columbia will join a handful of cities
> around the world in spearheading bioreactor technology.
> ³I see nothing in its way right now,² Wieman said. ³DNR has been very
> positive. It¹s fun to be a part of this experiment and leading technology in
> Columbia.²
> back to the top
> <>
> .
> Copyright © 2007 Columbia Missourian
> Eric Lombardi
> Executive Director/CEO
> Eco-Cycle Inc
> Boulder, CO. USA
> 303-444-6634
> >

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