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Landfill Gas

Methane makes up about 50 percent of the gases emitted by landfills. Created by natural decomposition, landfill gas has about half the energy potential of natural gas. Landfill methane can generate electricity, fire boilers or otherwise substitute for other energy sources.

To operate under federal regulations, landfills must monitor their methane production or collect and burn it to prevent air pollution. Therefore, using landfill methane to generate electricity, fire boilers or substitute for other energy sources can turn a potential liability into a benefit.208

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) landfill database, Texas has 24 landfill gas energy projects, most of which began after 2000. All but two of these are generating electricity, with a total collective capacity of 79 megawatts.209

Cost

Per Million Btu (2005) $0.82 for electricity (wood and waste biomass).210
Direct Subsidy Share of Total Consumer Spending Federal: 0.4 percent (wood and waste biomass); State and Local: none.211
Notes The use of landfill gas for electricity generation may entail transmission costs if it is transported to offsite locations.

Economic Impact and Viability

Wages and Jobs Economic data on the Texas landfill gas industry are not available.
Regulatory Climate Landfill gas facilities must obtain air and wastewater permits from TCEQ, a process that usually takes about one year.212
Texas Competitive Advantage Texas has relatively good potential for exploiting this resource.
Notes Texas is a relative newcomer to using landfill gas for energy. With 187 operating landfills and at least 57 sites that could be used to develop landfill gas, the state has the potential to turn much more of its waste into energy.213

Availability and Current Infrastructure

Estimated Resources in Texas Texas has at least 24 ongoing landfill gas energy projects.214 TCEQ estimates that 59 Texas landfills are good candidates for energy projects.215 EPA’s landfill database, however, indicates that Texas has 57 sites that could be developed.216 Under either estimate, Texas has significant potential for using this energy source.
Current Fuel Production Texans threw away 30.5 million tons of garbage in fiscal 2006.217
Consumption in Texas No data available.
Notes The total generating capacity of Texas’ existing landfill gas energy projects is an estimated 74 MW.218

Environment, Health and Safety

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Although landfill gas releases carbon dioxide when burned, these emissions are considered part of the earth’s current carbon cycle and represent no net increase in CO2.219
Air Pollution (Non-Greenhouse Gas) Burning landfill gas produces NOX, although the amount released depends on the composition of the waste from which the gas is produced, as well as other factors. The combustion of landfill gas also can release trace elements of some toxic chemicals, again depending upon the composition of the waste as well as the temperature of the flame.220
Solid Waste The production of landfill gas itself does not produce solid waste; however, it takes advantage of solid waste sites.
Land Use Landfill gas is produced on existing landfills.
Water Withdrawal No significant issues.
Water Consumption No significant issues.
Water Quality While landfills, if not managed properly, may negatively affect water quality, the production of landfill gas does not.
Notes Burning landfill gas to produce electricity can reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Fuel Characteristics

Energy Content Landfill gas has about half the energy potential of natural gas, which contains 1,031 Btu per cubic foot.221
Renewability Landfill gas is a renewable resource.

Other Issues

Dependence on Foreign Suppliers None.
Price and Supply Risks None.
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