Texas waste-to-energy project begins operations

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Dec. 19, 2008, at 10:14 a.m. CST

Residents of Denton, Texas, are utilizing power generated from their own trash, thanks to a landfill gas-to-energy project partnership between the city, Denton Municipal Electric and Denton Power LLC, a subsidiary of DTE Biomass Energy.

In the process, methane gas is captured from the city landfill by a series of collection wells and then sent through a recovery system which cleans the gas and eliminates harmful emissions. It's sold to Denton Municipal Electric, which then distributes it to power industrial and steam applications or generate electricity.

The landfill gas captured is utilized by one Caterpillar engine which generates a capacity of 1.6 megawatts, enough electricity to power 1,600 homes.

This is DTE Biomass Energy's first project in Texas, although the company has 25 additional landfill gas-to-energy projects across the U.S., including a landfill gas combustion turbine facility in Michigan. Located south of Detroit in Riverview, the facility generates 6.6 megawatts of electricity to power more than 5,000 homes.

According to the U.S. EPA, DTE Biomass Energy is one of the nation's largest landfill gas recovery companies.

Denton's landfill is also home to Biodiesel Industries Inc.'s idle 3 MMgy biodiesel production facility. Built in 2005 through a partnership between the city and BioDiesel Industries, the facility was powered by methane gas.

Denton invested $650,000 to help pay for the facility's construction costs and agreed to purchase a set amount of biodiesel to fuel city garbage trucks, buses and other service vehicles. In May 2008, the city sued the company and its local affiliate for breach of contract, stating the plant failed to produce enough biodiesel and ceased production without warning. In November, Biodiesel Industries agreed to pay the city back the $650,000 it invested in the project.