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Tapping trash for landfill gas

The Times of India, New Delhi, 6th April, 2013

A new technology for recovering landfill gas may reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from landfills by a great extent. If commercialized, the gas recovered can be used for cooking, heating, electricity generation and even transportation. The technology has been introduced in a pilot project at the Okhla landfill. After two years of monitoring it, scientists who worked on the project on Thursday declared that the project has the potential to be successfully commercialized.

The project was introduced in 2011 by The Energy and Resource Institute, MoEF and Jamia Milia Islamia University. According to municipal figures, the Okhla site gets about 1,600 tons of waste everyday and a total of 6.8 million tons of waste has already been disposed there. High amounts of organic waste dumped along with dry waste degrade slowly and emit large amounts of methane gas.

 "Methane is almost 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. It has very high global warming potential and is also explosive in nature. Through the project, we aimed to trap methane and use it more productively," Prof. Avinash Chandra of IIT Delhi said. The research team first analyzed whether there was enough methane emission from the site under static condition with help of a gas analyzer. They found 44.6% of the emissions were of methane and 15.9% of carbon dioxide. "There is enough methane that can be trapped by our indigenous technology. So we trapped the gas with the help of blowers that suck it in, clean it and then flare it," Suneel Pandey of TERI said.

Gas Authority of India Ltd is now considering how the gas from this site can be used commercially. It has the potential to be used for cooking and to generate electricity but will require additional investment. If it is purified of CO2, it can be used for transportation just like compressed natural gas is being used in Delhi. For now, the gas is being flared so that methane emissions are reduced. But flaring does release carbon dioxide which is also a greenhouse gas.

This technology is different from the conventional waste-to-energy plants at landfill sites in Delhi, Bangalore and other cities which incinerate waste to generate heat. However, LFG technology may not be implemented in the same way across cities. According to scientists, local climatic conditions also play an important role in the success of gas recovery.