Super-Emitters in California (Landfills)

Forward landfill This Saturday I spent some time looking through the Methane Source Finder put out by Riley Duren of JPL. The paper can be found paywalled here. The authors allow that landfills are by far the largest contributor to the issue, but interestingly don’t “name and shame” the locations and operators, which makes sense because they are working with the operators to clear up the issues which is great. However, I of course will name and shame them. Here are the top 5.

“Of the 270 landfills surveyed, only 30 were observed emitting large plumes of methane. Those 30, however, were responsible for 40 percent of the total point source emissions detected during the survey.” These methane plumes were associated with construction, gaps in intermediate cover and leaking gas-capture wells.

  1. Forward Landfill owned by Republic Services
  2. Ox Mountain Landfill owned by Republic Services
  3. Kiefer Landfill operated by Sacramento County
  4. Bowerman Landfill operated by OC Waste and Recycling
  5. Newby Island Landfill owned by Republic Services

These were the only methane contributors releasing more than 1500 kg/hr of methane. The nature article estimates that California releases 1.545 teragrams of methane per year, 40% of which is from single-point sources. This is the most of any state in the country, and the difference between it and Texas maps roughly to the population difference. Combined, these leached 100kilo-kilograms per year in 2016, making up about 6.5 percent of the total state methane waste.

Three of these sites are owned by Republic Services, a company that was started in 1998 and owns about 200 landfills, out of the 3000 in the US. This company seems to be run by an amalgamation of people.

Methane is produced through decomposition by anaerobic methane-producing bacteria over the first year that solid waste is deposited into a landfill. It is usually extracted from landfills by leaving pipes inside of the soil which is covered by topsoil and then having a fire that burns the methane at one end which causes a vacuum effect within the pipes to suck more methane into them. Most of these operations burn methane to CO2 to produce electricity.

Three companies which run landfill gas extraction and landfill energy extraction operations are Clarke Energy, and Advanced Disposal.

These companies have been helped out by the opening of the Landfill Methane Outreach Program LMOP, which is a voluntary program for landfills to work with the government to save on emissions.

Written on November 9, 2019