12/17/10 — County continues tweaking methane gas landfill project

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County continues tweaking methane gas landfill project

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 17, 2010 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- Methane gas created by decomposition at the Wayne County landfill is powering electricity-producing turbines that one day could provide power for up to 1,600 homes.

The $6 million project being built by Methane Power is still months away from becoming operational, however, testing of the engines began this past Monday.

Along with generating electricity, the project could generate possibly up to $50,000 annually for the county since the county will receive 3.5 percent of the total revenues Methane Power makes from the plant.

It also relieves the county of expenses associated with the installation and maintenance of the wells and piping required to capture the gas.

The county had been facing a state mandate for new wells and piping in the landfill that had been expected to cost $200,000. Methane Power has assumed those costs, which have climbed to $600,000, said Tim Rogers, director of the county's solid waste department.

"The main thing they have been doing is upgrading the gas system itself," Rogers said. "They had some problems with the lines, particularly in oversettling over the years and water standing in the lines. They are about through with that and started testing an engine Monday."

The company had thought it would cost about $200,000 to make all of the necessary improvements to the gas collection system. However, it will end up costing $600,000, Rogers said.

Along with replacing the piping, the company has added new wells to the gas collection system and new automatic pumps instead of the manual ones the county had used to pull water from the lines.

A new flare was added as well.

Rogers said the new fare is more sophisticated than the 10-year-old one the county had been using to burn off the methane gas. The flare is computer controlled and can be monitored online, he said.

A vacuum system was installed in 2003 in which the gas is removed from the landfill using a series of wells and a flare. The collected gas is directed to a central point where it's processed and treated. For the past five years, the county has gotten rid of the gas by burning it off through a single flare located on a high point in the landfill.

The engines have to be run for so many hours as part of a "breaking-in" period and to help ensure there are no "glitches," he said. The engine has actually been producing electricity, he said.

It is a complicated process because of the fuel source, Rogers said. Sensors have been installed to shut down the engines should the gas pressure fall in the line, he said.

"They have come a long way," Rogers said. "Hopefully, realistically, I think it will be the middle of February or March before all three engines will be up and running. They plan to run two engines and have a spare."

Methane Power is leasing one-half acre from the county on which three one-megawatt generators are being built. Current plans are to have two running and to have one as backup if there is a need to take one down for service. The company is paying $1,200 annually for the lease.