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EPA engages UT Arlington environmental engineers team to generate energy from landfills in Ghana

EPA engages UT Arlington environmental engineers team to generate energy from landfills in Ghana
Sahadat Hossain and Melanie Sattler, associate professors of civil engineering at UT Arlington, conduct research at the city of Denton landfill. Credit: UT Arlington
Two UT Arlington environmental engineers are adapting a sensor system they have developed to boost methane production in landfills to create an alternative energy source in Ghana.

Sahadat Hossain and Melanie Sattler, both associate professors of civil engineering, have won a $100,000 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency's Global Methane Initiative to study the feasibility of landfill gas to energy in Ghana, in the western Africa country of about 24 million people.

The city of Denton is operating its landfill as an Enhanced Leachate Recirculation landfill. Hossain helped them successfully implement the first ELR landfill in Texas. Denton's landfill is generating enough energy to power about 3,000 households.

The UT Arlington team also recently was awarded a $300,000 contract with the Dallas-based CP&Y engineering firm to help boost methane production in the Corpus Christi landfill system.

"This development has the potential to take the project and technology worldwide," Hossain said of the EPA-funded project. "We already know the system works. We just have to show the EPA and Ghana officials that it's feasible in that country."

Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, applauded team's work to boost production of an accessible, alternative energy resource.

"This kind of research, born in the labs of a major, public university, has the potential to help people and cities across the globe," Behbehani said. "Professors Hossain and Sattler are engaged not only in elevating an alternative energy source, they also are shaping technology that appeals to consumers, industry and environmentalists alike."

ELR landfills use the controlled addition of water to more rapidly decompose organic materials so that methane is produced more quickly. 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.

But Hossain and Sattler have successfully used a resistivity imaging method, an advanced sensor 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, aided by recent doctoral graduate Huda Shihada, developed a model through which landfill managers can quantify moisture content without drilling or other destructive sampling.

Benjamin Afotey, a lecturer with Kwami Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, earned his Ph.D. under Sattler's direction and will serve as the project's partner in Ghana.

"Ben's involvement in the field in Ghana will be vital to the success of the project," Sattler said. "He and his students will do the necessary field work to measure the success of the system."

Hossain and Sattler said that Ghana is considered a model for other African countries in terms of the production of alternative energy. Success with the UT Arlington technology in Ghana could spread across the continent, she said.

Provided by University of Texas at Arlington