Landfill gas-to-energy project prepares for start-up in Nebraska

By Lincoln Electric System | October 07, 2013

Lincoln, Neb., Mayor Chris Beutler and Kevin Wailes, administrator and CEO of Lincoln Electric System, recently dedicated the landfill gas-to-energy project, a 4.8-megawatt (MW) LES power generating facility fueled with methane gas produced at the city of Lincoln's Bluff Road Landfill.

 "Together, we are taking a major step forward in providing renewable energy that will benefit residents for decades to come, through a cleaner environment, a local source of energy, continued low utility rates, and the unlocking of new economic development," Beutler said. "Lincoln is becoming known more and more for its high quality of life and its related commitment to sustainability, evidenced by this project as well as the new Innovation Campus Central Renewable Energy System announced last week. These initiatives truly are making a difference in our ability to attract research and technology-led businesses and industries that, in turn, bring high-quality jobs and increased investment across the city."

The city has been working on the project since April 2008 when it solicited bids to evaluate the feasibility of capturing landfill gas produced naturally by the decomposition of waste. In November 2011, the city and LES signed a 20-year agreement for LES to purchase and convert all of the methane gas recovered from the Bluff Road Landfill to electricity. An evaluation revealed the most practical site for the generating equipment was about 1 mile east of the landfill at LES' Terry Bundy Generating Station.

The city has drilled 54 wells that enable the gas to travel through a system of pipes to a facility where it is burned off in a "flare" to prevent it from reaching the atmosphere. This phase of the project cost about $2.2 million and was funded through fees paid by landfill users. LES installed a gas pipeline between the landfill and Terry Bundy Generating Station, gas cleaning and compression equipment, and electrical generating equipment. LES' investment for the equipment, pipeline, construction, engineering and other expenses has totaled $11.32 million, which is $1.61 million, or about 8.75 percent, under the project budget of $12.93 million. The plant will go on line Oct. 14.

"By partnering with the city of Lincoln on this project, LES is able to harness the landfill's methane gas and use this otherwise untapped energy to provide additional sustainable electricity to local homes and businesses," Wailes said. "It also will provide the greater Lincoln area annual greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to the emissions from about 24,000 cars."

To operate the plant, LES will purchase about 300,000 million British thermal units of landfill gas from the city each year and use it to produce electricity capable of serving about 2,500 local households. Upon further expansion of the landfill gas project by the city, LES has the first right to any additional gas generated. LES also has a 15-year extension option at the end of the 20-year agreement.

The U.S. EPA says methane gas is over 20 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Landfill gas is about 40 to 60 percent methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide. The landfill gas was previously released through vents.