Dallas landfill generating gas from your trash

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on December 27, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 30 at 6:46 AM

McCommas Landfill

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DALLAS — All that garbage from homes and businesses that ends up in the McCommas landfill isn't just buried and forgotten.

Some of it returns as money for the city.

"As it degrades, the microbes emit methane as they are breaking the garbage down," explained Ron Smith of Dallas Sanitation Services. "When they emit the methane, it either goes into the atmosphere or you build an infrastructure to capture it, market it and sell it."

The city leases the gas rights to the landfill to a firm called Dallas Clean Energy. It has now drilled 325 wells down into the buried, rotting garbage.

After processing, enough gas is recovered and sent into the pipeline system to serve 35,000 homes a year.

The company paid $1.3 million in royalties to the city this year, and will pay nearly $2 million next year.

The landfill is producing so much gas — and it's becoming so lucrative — that the processing plant is being expanded.

With the city's approval this month, Dallas Clean Energy is spending $55 million to replace an aging gas engine to run compressors with electric-powered compressors. The improvements will eventually more than double the landfill's gas output.

"Anything that uses natural gas — whether it be your furnace or your stove, your Dearborn heaters, anything that runs off natural gas — could very well be using natural gas from the landfill."

And the garbage gas will flow for decades.

The landfill won't top out for almost 50 years, and will continue producing gas for up to 15 years after that.

That's a lot of cash for your forgotten trash.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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