Landfill Gas Gaining in Popularity in South Africa

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Johannesburg — LANDFILL gas, which is produced by wet organic waste decomposing under anaerobic conditions in a landfill, is being pursued by a growing number of municipalities in SA as an alternative energy source.
As an important item on the clean energy agenda, landfill gas is also gaining ground around the world. It contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The landfill gas process entails the burning of the greenhouse gas methane, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
According to WSP Environment and Energy, consultants involved in various landfill gas projects around SA, it typically comprises a mixture of methane gas and carbon dioxide.
In a paper on landfill gas recovery in SA, Jean E Bogner and Catherine A Lee of the University of Illinois in Chicago say it can be used as an important local source of energy for industrial heating, electrical generation, or be upgrad ed to a substitute for natural gas.
Speaking at the launch of a landfill gas project in Durban earlier this year, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said she wanted to see more companies taking advantage of the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism, “and I would like to see a significant increase in projects benefiting from this additional revenue stream”.

Set up in terms of the Kyoto Protocol, the mechanism allows a country with an emission- reduction commitment to implement emission-reduction projects in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission-reduction credits.
SA wants its greenhouse gas emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, stabilise for 10 years and then decline thereafter. If the country wants to stick to this plan, serious attention must be given to alternative energy projects such as those of landfill gas.
It is these imperatives that drive various landfill gas projects in a number of municipalities around the country.
One entails the extraction and use of landfill gas from a Bellville, Western Cape, landfill, which has been operated by the City of Cape Town municipality since 1960.
According to WSP Environment and Energy, the project will provide electricity, which can be fed into the municipal grid, “thus offsetting largely coal-derived electricity by Eskom”.

The consultancy has issued the draft basic assessment reports for the proposed Bellville project, and says the project will entail the installation and commissioning of a system of landfill gas collection infrastructure and electricity generation equipment.
The state-owned Central Energy Fund – whose mandate from the government is to look for energy solutions in order to meet the country’s energy needs – wants to see landfill gas play a larger role in energy generation .
The Department of Energy wants the fund to investigate the feasibility of a landfill gas project at 20 sites in the Cape Town, Emfuleni, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth municipal areas.
“Currently, 15 of the 20 sites have passed preliminary feasibility investigations and are subjects of further gas availability studies in parallel with the waste licence application process,” WSP Environment and Energy says.

The consultancy, appointed by the Central Energy Fund to facilitate the environmental authorisation procedure associated with the waste management licence application at the 15 sites, says the projects will collectively generate up to 26MW of electricity. This is subject to the outcome of feasibility studies on the projects.
Ms Peters says a lack of tariffs “at appropriate level” and clauses in the Municipal Finance Management Act have hampered investment in landfill projects.
In terms of the National Energy Regulator of SA’s guidelines on renewable energy feed-in tariffs, the tariff for landfill gas is 90c/kWh. This, along with tariffs for other renewable energy sources such as wind, small hydro and concentrated solar, is considered an attractive tariff that should stimulate investment.
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