Something we don’t hear about, in the argument for renewables, is the fact methane gas is not only a fossil fuel but is also renewable.
I came across this video on Facebook today that not only gave me a good laugh but it also points out that methane is a renewable gas.
After watching this and getting back up off the floor from ROTFLMAO, I thought about what they said, “that methane gas is renewable.” It’s true, as landfills and cow manure pits are examples of things that produce methane gas. These sources of renewable methane can be used and, in fact, are being used as we speak in some areas.
Let’s start with renewable methane from landfills. According to this article, entitled Energy from Landfill Gas and Methane, by Conservation Services Group:
“Landfill gas, released as solid waste decomposes, can be used to generate electricity in a very cost-effective manner. This gas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, and other organic compounds.”
How is landfill gas captured and turned into energy?
“Landfill gas, produced when anaerobic bacteria break down organic waste, is extracted using a series of wells or a vacuum system. Gas is then collected in a central location for processing. The gas may be used to generate electricity onsite, or it may be upgraded to pipeline-quality gas. Combined with natural gas, it can fuel conventional combustion turbines or used to fuel small combustion or combined cycle turbines.”
“Some landfills are too small or otherwise unsuitable for large-scale production. A microturbine, a type of combustion turbine, may be used at these sites. Microturbines generate energy by burning fuel (landfill gas) to spin a turbine which activates a generator. Landfill gas may also be used in fuel cell technologies, which use chemical reactions to efficiently create electricity.”
Isn’t methane gas a cause of global warming?
“Yes. This is a major benefit of processing and using landfill gas to produce energy. The methane produced by landfills is a potent greenhouse gas and thus a major contributor to environmental problems. However, when methane gas is burned, it converts to less harmful substances such as CO2 and water. Therefore, although landfill gas is neither entirely renewable nor completely clean as a fuel source, it has many benefits in comparison to fossil fuel sources of electricity generation.”
It doesn’t end there, though, because landfill methane can and is being used as a transportation fuel. Waste Management who operates a landfill in my area, Washington County, Pa., uses it to fuel their garbage collection trucks. I’ve written about how they use methane for truck fuel here.
Then, let’s take a look at cow manure. Technology is available, and being used, to capture methane gas from manure pits in Vermont. According to this article, by Sustainable Business.com, entitled Cow Poop to Cow Power:
“Residents of Vermont are being treated to a new form of local renewable energy – Cow Power.”
“All residents can now buy energy produced from the manure of Vermont’s 10,000 dairy cows straight from the utility. The state just ruled the program could be expanded state-wide, so they’ll be a lot more cows signing on to participate.”
“Residents can elect to buy 25%, 50%, or 100% of their energy from Cow Power, and pay a premium of four cents per kilowatt hour. That adds up to an extra $6 a month for an average homeowner if they get 25% of their energy from Cow Power. The premium goes directly to farmers.”
These are just a couple examples of how renewable methane can be used to generate energy. Sewage treatment plants and septic systems are others. So, the next time you hear that methane gas is a fossil fuel remind who says it that it is also renewable.