Tri-K hopes to tap landfill energy potential
Throughout Tri-K Landfill there is a series of pipes that carry the methane gas to this station. At night a flame can be seen where the gas is burnt off from the top of the pipe. It is this gas that hopefully one day will be converted into usable energy. (Photo by Katelynn Griffin)
Owners and operators of Tri- K Landfill have discussed the possibility of converting gas, but the project keeps getting pushed back.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this facility is a candidate for the Landfill Methane Outreach Program, or LMOP.
LMOP is a voluntary program that will help landfill owners harvest the methane gas released from solid waste and turn it into an energy source, usually electricity or gas. The EPA has listed 510 landfills throughout the country as candidates, including 18 in Kentucky. Republic Services owns five candidate sites in the state, including the Tri-K Landfill.
According to the EPA, as of April there are 551 operating projects across the United States. Currently, Kentucky has seven operating projects. East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) owns and operates six landfill gas electric power plants in Kentucky. In total, these power plants provide 16.8 megawatts of electricity, according to the EKPC. It is marketed to customers as EnviroWatts and serves 87 counties.
It is not a stretch for Republic Services to consider doing the same project in Lincoln County. However, it will not be in the immediate future.
“There are no plans at this time,” Republic Services Media Relations Manager Peg Mulloy said. “Tri- K is on the list of potential sites.”
The potential is far reaching, both economically and environmentally. Due to variables it is hard to predict the exact profit that could be made by converting the gas. The main factors would include how much gas is available, the quality of the gas, and whether it is converted into electricity or ran in a pipe line. When the gas is organized through an electric coop like EKPC, the chance of economic success rises.
Municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest human-generated source of methane emissions in the United States, according to the EPA. When direct sunlight reaches the Earth’s surface, greenhouse gases, such as methane, trap the heat. The heat is then trapped in the atmosphere and is a contributor to climate change. By capturing the methane gas given off at landfills, it will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Republic Services own 193 landfills in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Tri-K Landfill opened in 1971 and holds an approximate 3, 057, 349 tons of waste. While Republic Services has yet to set a time table or date for a project, the potential is clearly there and in the future the possibility remains that the Tri- K Landfill could one day convert methane gas into a profitable energy source.