Civil engineers increasing energy created from solid waste, potential for future landfill operations

Dec 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—Two UT Arlington civil engineering professors are working with a new imaging system that has doubled the amount of methane gas produced by the city of Denton landfill.

The landfill is the first in Texas to implement the Enhanced Leachate Recirculation system. The gas now provides power for about 1,500 Denton households. However, with increased efficiency of ELR operation, the system will be able to power 3,000 homes in the city of 117,000, officials said.

Sahadat Hossain and Melanie Sattler, associate professors of civil engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, have helped the city of Denton increase the efficiency of their landfill operation.

Vance Kemler, general manager of Denton's Solid Waste and Recycling Services Department, said the UT Arlington team's work with Denton has peaked the interest of officials in Garland and Corpus Christi as well, he said.

"This research is a significant accomplishment, and it will change the landfill operation for us and others in the state of Texas," Kemler said.

Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said the work by Hossain and Sattler holds promising results for municipalities worldwide.

"This is the kind of innovation that will help cities harness available energy resources and maximize the utilization of available spaces at a time of unprecedented urban growth," Bardet said. "I applaud the work of Drs. Hossain and Sattler."

Hossain and Sattler are funded through a three-year, $344,414 grant from the city of Denton. Their current project will focus on monitoring what they call "fugitive emissions" of and increasing efficiency of the landfill gas collection system.

This project will help Denton's landfill move toward operation as a sustainable landfill, a new idea in landfill management. A sustainable landfill integrates ELR landfill operation, renewable energy generation and reutilization of the same landfill space. This is the second project with city of Denton for UT Arlington.

ELR landfills use the controlled addition of water to more rapidly decompose organic materials to produce methane. In a landfill, leachate is the contaminated water that trickles through the waste. Monitoring moisture movement due to water addition remains a major challenge and roadblock for implementation of ELR landfills.

Hossain and Sattler successfully utilized a resistivity imaging method, an advanced tool, to monitor moisture movement during ELR operation. Resistivity imaging helps landfill managers know how quickly to recirculate the liquid and how effectively the system is working, Hossain said.

Hossain and his recently graduated doctoral student, Huda Shihada, developed a model through which they can quantify the moisture content without a need for drilling or destructive sampling.

"This is the first time a model like this has been developed in the world," Hossain said. "This has the potential to change the way landfills operate."

Sattler said most current landfills require drilling to collect waste samples.

"That drilling releases some of the into the atmosphere," Sattler said. "That's bad for the air because methane is a greenhouse gas and something the EPA is concerned about. With the new system, you don't need to drill the holes."

Currently, the city of Denton is working on a permit modification to operate their using the method developed by Hossain. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will review that permit modification soon.

Explore further: NOAA establishes 'tipping points' for sea level rise related flooding

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Estimating landfill gas potential

May 26, 2011

Research suggests that landfill gas-recovery projects should be implemented quickly if the maximum amount of methane gas is to be retrieved from organic waste in as short as time as possible, according to a study published ...

Landfill cover soil methane oxidation underestimated

Apr 27, 2009

Landfilled waste decomposes in the absence of oxygen and results in the production of methane. Landfills are classified as the second-largest human-made source of CH4 in the U.S. Additionally, landfill gas contains numerous ...

Biofilters reduce carbon footprint of old landfill sites

Jul 11, 2011

Researchers in the US are testing biofilter systems as a viable alternative to releasing methane from passive landfill vents into the atmosphere. The technology could reduce the overall impact of old landfills on global warming. ...

Putting a green cap on garbage dumps

Nov 24, 2008

Landfill sites produce the greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, as putrescible waste decays. Growing plants and trees on top of a landfill, a process known as 'Phytocapping', could reduce the production and release ...

Projects across U.S. turn landfill gas into energy

Feb 25, 2010

More U.S. communities are turning trash into power. Nationwide, the number of landfill gas projects, which convert methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage into power, jumped from 399 in 2005 to 519 last year, according ...

Recommended for you

UN sends team to clean up Bangladesh oil spill

3 hours ago

The United Nations said Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world's largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

How will climate change transform agriculture?

3 hours ago

Climate change impacts will require major but very uncertain transformations of global agriculture systems by mid-century, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Report: Radiation leak at nuclear dump was small

3 hours ago

A final report by independent researchers shows the radiation leak from the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico was small and localized.

Confucian thought and China's environmental dilemmas

7 hours ago

Conventional wisdom holds that China - the world's most populous country - is an inveterate polluter, that it puts economic goals above conservation in every instance. So China's recent moves toward an apparent ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.