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From Odor to Electricity

Sep 16, 2014

By Matthew DeNafo, Senior Engineer

The ACUA is fitted with a landfill gas to energy collection system that prevents gas generated inside the landfill from escaping into the atmosphere. To project helps us (1) combat odors and (2) produce energy that is used to power the entire Environmental Park facility.



How It Works

Household garbage can be very moist and contain a lot of organic material. Naturally, this material eventually begins to decay and rot inside the landfill. As the trash decomposes it creates a gas that is made up of mainly methane and carbon dioxide.

The gas is then collected by the system, which is comprised of a vacuum component and several collection wells strategically spaced throughout the landfill site. The size and complexity of a system is typically dependent on the size of the landfill and the amount of time the waste has been decomposing. ACUA currently has 86 wells collecting gas throughout the landfill.

Once the gas is collected, it is used to create electricity or is safely destroyed in a high temperature flare. The quality of gas collected determines whether it can be used as energy or must be destroyed. The flaring (burning) of landfill gas converts the methane gas into carbon dioxide and water, which is 21 times less harmful to the atmosphere than methane gas.


Maintenance and Odor Control

ACUA maintains thousands of feet in collection piping that span over 100 acres in area and connect to 86 gas wells.

The daily maintenance and operation of the project is a balancing act. Since conditions can significantly fluctuate based on weather, temperatures, moisture and the rate of placement, the collection system needs to be manually tuned/balanced at each collection point (gas well) on a regular basis and requires a full-time staff.

When odor becomes an issue at a site there are several short term things that need to be taken into consideration, and unfortunately, there usually isn’t one simple solution. Some of the first actions that are taken at the ACUA include: isolating the problem area, checking vacuum pressure, ensuring none of the lines are clogged, making sure none of the gas wells are damaged, re-tuning the well field properly, and making sure gas collection coverage is sufficient.

After all of the system checks are completed, if collection is still not sufficient it is then time to begin to look at longer term solutions such as installing additional wells or replacing wells that might not be as efficient.

This is a continual process and one we work on every day to ensure our system is efficient and effective.

To learn more about the project and our odor control process, click here.