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Victoria works to harvest landfill's methane gas

By Melissa Crowe
Sept. 3, 2012 at 4:03 a.m.

Darryl Lesak, director of environmental services, looks over the landfill site where Victoria plans to spend about $200,000 to repair the gas, capturing system. Monitors that check the methane levels at the landfill are located throughout the facility.

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If you go:

What: Victoria City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 107 W. Juan Linn St.

More Information: www.victoriatx.org

From the Bloomington Highway, passersby see little more of Victoria's landfill than a few seagulls and yesterday's garbage.

However, Darryl Lesak, Victoria's environmental services director, is making sure the trash doesn't go to waste.

The city is months away from opening a 13-mile pipeline to pump methane gas from the landfill to Ineos. The business partnership stands to create a new revenue source for Victoria.

"As long as we're putting trash in the ground, it will produce," Lesak said.

However, the infrastructure does not come cheap.

The City Council is expected to give its final vote Tuesday to a $201,500 budget transfer that will pay for repairs to several crimped methane wells.

In 2008, the city made about $300,000 in repairs to the methane gas system, Lesak said.

The landfill itself is costly. Each acre is an investment of about $300,000, which includes a 60 millimeter plastic lining, 24 inches of packed clay and 18 inches of soil before trash even touches it, said Dennis Delesandri, the landfill manager.

Victoria officials are in the process of transferring the gas system from Republic Service to Renovar Energy Corp.

By Jan. 1, they expect the pipeline to Ineos to be in place, so they can start selling methane.

Delesandri said Ineos will use the methane to dilute natural gas, similar to adding ethanol to gasoline.

"This is a medium grade Btu, so it won't pay as high as natural gas," Lesak said.

Until the pipeline is built and open, the gas is flared off, creating a loss of potential revenue.

The city's Intergovernmental Affairs Director Jerry James, who was recently promoted from environmental services director, said the contract with Ineos is only a fragment of the total benefit.

By capturing methane, the city is adding life to the landfill, keeping potent greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and could potentially sell greenhouse credits to industries.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported that municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the country, accounting for about 17 percent of these emissions in 2009.

At the same time, cities are realizing that methane emissions from landfills represent a lost opportunity to capture and use a significant energy resource.

As of June, 27 landfills in Texas capture methane, according to the EPA.

"The state is trying to show cities, because of what's happening in the gas market, that it's viable even for smaller entities," James said.

He estimated that the landfill produces 1,500 cubic feet per minute, or 2.16 million cubic feet per day.

The landfill opened in 1983 and has 2.56 million tons of waste in place. Its closure date is 2044, according to the EPA; however, the city's goal is to maintain a 100-year life span on the landfill.

Lesak said the city's recycling program is making it easier to produce methane because it pulls plastic from the process, while simultaneously adding life to the landfill.

In about a year, James and Lesak hope to prove successful progress with the methane system and recycling program.

"Hopefully, it lasts for the 100 years we want, and we can find other ways to use things the landfill produces," Lesak said.

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