Methane plan hits snag

The viability of extracting energy from a Columbia County dumping ground might fall victim to a case of bad timing.

 

County officials recently contracted Atlanta-based consulting firm Jordan, Jones and Goulding Inc. to update a 1999 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study on the estimated amount of methane available at the Columbia County landfill on Baker Place Road.


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But Don Bartles, director of environmental services for the county, worries not enough methane still exists at the closed landfill to make an extracting operation economically feasible.

"It's a perishing item," Mr. Bartles said. "It's generated due to the decomposition of solid waste, and it's a fixed amount of waste."

According to the 1999 study, Mr. Bartles said, gas production at the landfill likely peaked in 2005. Since then, the available methane probably has diminished.

In 1999, the EPA estimated the potential collection rate of methane gas from the landfill at 461 cubic feet per minute. The collection rate rose to 493 in 2005.

However, the rate dropped to 474, 456 and 438 cubic feet per minute in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively. By 2030, the last year the study estimates, the rate would drop to 182.

"There's not an infinite supply of gas there," he said. "It won't generate enough so that it pays to process and market it."

At the time of the first study, when methane production was rising, no one was near enough to use the gas, Mr. Bartles said.

"We wanted to (mine methane) in 1999, but then there was nothing out there but the landfill and the squirrels," he said. "Not only do you have to have methane, but you've got to have somebody to use the methane."

In recent years, industrial development on Lewiston Road at Interstate 20, near the landfill, has increased to the point where methane production could be beneficial, if enough of the gas still exists.

Mr. Bartles expects an update of the 1999 study to be completed in the next few weeks.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.