You are on page 1of 22

1

LANDFILL GAS MANAGEMENT

Ray Lombard
Lombard & Associates
2

INTRODUCTION

Modern sanitary landfill sites can be managed to operate like large anaerobic digestors and the
quality of the leachate that such sites produce improves in a surprisingly short time. In the
coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, where the rainfall is relatively high, sanitary landfill sites
closely mimic the flushing bioreactor models that have been researched by Cossu, Robinson,
Knox and others in Europe1.

However, one of the serious by-products of this approach is the generation of substantial
volumes of landfill gas as a result of biodegradation of putrescible wastes. If landfill gas is not
managed correctly it impacts negatively on the receiving environment.

The technology of landfill gas recovery has advanced considerably in the last decade. Robust
and adaptable systems have been developed to cope with the variable supply and quality of
biogas from landfill sites. This technology provides for the safe destruction of landfill gas by
meeting strict environmental emission standards. Further, various options exist for the use of
landfill gas:-

• as thermal energy for processes in industry, whether in heating water or raising steam;
• as thermal energy for domestic heating in climates that are colder than our own;
• as a supplementary fuel for incineration plant;
• for the generation of electricity generation and in one case,
• in South Africa, as a raw material chemical feed stock for the commercial production of
cyanide.

In South Africa, the relatively low cost of energy is a serious constraint on the viability of most
of the above uses and the primary economic benefit of landfill gas extraction, whether by flaring
the gas or recovering it for use, lies in extending the life of landfill sites. This occurs when
airspace is conserved due to accelerated settlement of the landfill as a result of optimising the
catabolism of the biodegradable fraction of the waste.

The Bisasar Road Class GLB+ Landfill is managed by Durban Solid Waste. A detailed landfill
gas recovery investigation was carried out in order to determine the potential gas yield from this
site. Landfill gas problems were identified and the process of managing their impacts has begun.

During the study period it was shown that the Bisasar Road Landfill site life, which was a
planned 37 years given the applicable deposition rates, would be extended by some 7 years
which would result in a saving to the Municipal Operating Budget of almost R 60 million.

Initially, a landfill gas curtain system, consisting of six (6) landfill gas wells and a modular
Hofstetter EGH-01 pump and flare station, was installed to protect the weigh-bridge and the site
offices from landfill gas migration. Later, a more extensive degassing plant, consisting of
twenty-four (24) landfill gas wells, a gas pump and flare station (including two Hofstetter flares -
one 500 Nm3h-1 pilot unit and the other a 2 000 Nm3h-1 slave unit), was installed to cover one
third of the landfill surface area. The operation of these two systems has been extensively
monitored over a period of two years in the case of the gas curtain and one year in the case of the
purpose-built plant. In addition to monitoring gas quality and flow rates, monthly survey
readings have been taken to monitor the settlement that has taken place on the site over the same
3
period.

WHAT IS LANDFILL GAS

Modern sanitary landfill operations, by definition, involve the controlled spreading, compaction
and covering of refuse which rapidly establishes anaerobic conditions. The occurrence of
landfill gas is well known and has been extensively researched and documented world wide.
Putrescible wastes contain readily biodegradable carbon compounds and include the categories
of waste commonly referred to as “Domestic”, “Industrial & Commercial” and “Civic Amenity”.
Inert or builders' wastes will also produce gas if they contain paper (e.g. old cement bags), card-
board, sawdust, wood and vegetation2. At least one so-called “inert waste” site has already been
shown to be generating landfill gas where a CH4 concentration of 14% by volume has been
recorded in a monitoring borehole located within that site2.

1.0 Landfill Gas Production

Anaerobic breakdown of organic material results in the production of methane (CH4),


carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds. The resulting gas mixture is
saturated with moisture and is referred to as landfill gas. The following composition is
typical of landfill gas:-

Component % by Volume

CH4 64
CO 2 34
N2 2

At 25°C landfill gas typically contains 1.8% by mass of water (H2O) and has a density of
1.295 kg m-3. The gas contains trace amounts of volatile fatty acids (VFA) that are
responsible for the typical sour odour associated with landfill gas. Landfill gas from an
active extraction scheme usually has a CH4 content of 40 - 50%. The authors have found
that in the water surplus areas of KwaZulu-Natal, landfill sites that are anaerobic, with a
depth of refuse greater than 2 m and sufficiently moist, will begin to generate significant
volumes of landfill gas within a period after 6 - 9 months after deposition which
compares with the situation reported by Falzon in Australia3.

2.0 Landfill Gas Properties

Methane (CH4) is a colourless, odourless, asphyxiant, flammable, non-toxic gas that is


lighter than air with a vapour density of 0.6. CH4 is explosive between the concentrations
of 5% - 15% by volume in air. This concentration range is referred to as the explosive
range with the two extremes being referred to as the lower and upper (UEL) explosive
limits respectively2.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable, toxic gas that is heavier
than air with a vapour density of 1.53. At a level of 3% by volume in air breathing
becomes laboured with resultant headaches. Generally, if the patient can be removed
from the exposure recovery will usually be rapid. At a level of 5 - 6% by volume in air
4
these symptoms become severe and at 10% by volume in air visual disturbances, tremors
and loss of consciousness can occur. The accepted safety limit for CO2 is 1.5% by
volume in air and concentrations above this limit are regarded as hazardous.
Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a highly toxic flammable gas with a characteristic offensive
rotten egg odour. At a level of 50 vpm in air H2S dulls the olfactory system and the gas
is no longer detectable making it even more dangerous. H2S is almost as toxic as
hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Concentrations from 20 - 150 vpm cause eye irritation and on
prolonged exposure pulmonary oedema. Higher levels of around 500 vpm cause
headache, dizziness, excitement, staggering gait, diarrhoea, dysuria and may result in
bronchitis and bronchopneumonia. Concentrations in the range of 800 - 1 000 vpm are
fatal within a period of 30 minutes3.

The CO2 and VFA components of landfill gas are aggressive to concrete, brick mortar
and mild steel. These materials must therefore be protected when used in a situation
where landfill gas can be expected. Typical protection measures for masonry and mild
steel include epoxy coatings and high density polyethylene lining materials.

Landfill gas will displace oxygen from enclosed spaces making entry to them extremely
hazardous. It is often not clearly understood by landfill operators that their activities are
controlled by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and that they may be prosecuted
for failing to observe elementary safety precautions. Landfill gas can severely damage
plant growth in migrations pathways due to a lack of O2 in the root zone. This occurs
both by physical displacement and microbiological use of O2 in the conversion of CH4 to
CO2. Entry to enclosed spaces should be prohibited until the atmosphere has been tested
for oxygen (O2) content and the presence of flammable gas. If landfill gas is permitted to
accumulate in low lying or enclosed spaces it will produce an atmosphere that is both
explosive and hazardous to life. As a guideline, entry should not be made if the O2
content is outside the range 20 - 21% by volume or the flammable gas exceeds 20% of
the lower explosive limit (LEL)2. Adherence to these limits will ensure that exposure to
the maximum concentration limit for CO2 is not breached.

3.0 Moisture

The moisture content of the waste placed in a landfill is an important factor that affects
landfill gas production. The moisture content of waste in a landfill may change over time
depending on the rainfall, the control of run-off and the management of the site. In
general the higher the moisture content the greater the gas production. In a relatively
small landfill containing five hundred thousand tons, the production of landfill gas may
reach up to 600 N m3 h-1. During the acidophilic or facultative anaerobic phase of
biodegradation in landfill the catabolism will produce excess water, some of which will
later be re-absorbed during the methanogenesis or obligate anaerobic phase.

4.0 Variability of Landfill Gas Emissions

The following conditions will cause variation in landfill gas emission and composition5:-
• rising atmospheric pressure
• falling atmospheric pressure
• rate of change of atmospheric pressure
• barometric pressure history prior to start of pressure change
5
• rising aquifer levels
• falling aquifer levels
• migration through biologically or chemically active media.
Rapidly falling atmospheric pressure results in increased gas flows with increased CH4
content. The more stable the pressure prior to a fall the greater the increase in gas
migration because gas accumulates during periods of stable atmospheric pressure. The
authors have noted that the zone of greatest variability in landfill gas composition is the
top 2 to 3 m of the landfill. A variation in landfill gas migration related to rainfall has
been has also been noted, where gas migration decreases during the dry season in a
summer rainfall area. It is felt that the converse may also apply in a winter rainfall area,
such as the Western Cape, when wet conditions will promote gas migration.

The CH4 component of landfill gas will biologically oxidise to CO2 in the upper layers of
the soil cover profile. Consequently rising levels of CO2 may give an early warning of
CH4 migration. Normal soil also contains CO2 from microbial metabolism. Thus, the
presence of CO2 is not always an indicator of landfill gas and must be viewed in the light
of similar soil circumstances unaffected by landfill.

5.0 Odour

Landfill gas contains over a hundred trace compounds that can be malodorous and
persistent in that they tend to become absorbed onto textiles such as clothes, curtains etc.
These odours are strongest where decomposing waste is exposed to the atmosphere.
Consequently, exposure of previously landfilled waste must be prevented where possible.
Typical malodorous compounds are hydrogen sulphide (H2S), esters, terpenes,
mercaptans and volatile fatty acids (VFA). These trace compounds are described as
volatile organic compounds (VOC). The normal landfill gas odour is that of the VFA
component but the reduced sulphur containing compounds such as H2S and mercaptans
can also influence the odour of the gas depending on the types of waste that have been
landfilled. Typical odour threshold levels of VOC in mg m-3 are shown below:-
6
Typical odour threshold levels of VOC in mg m-3

VOC Odour
Threshold
Benzene 9 000
Decanes 1 000
dichlorodifluoromethane -
Heptanes 100 000
Limonenes 57
Methylene Chloride 750
Nonanes 2 000
Octanes 1 000
Propylbenzenes -
Terpenes 1 000
Toluene 700
Trichloroethylene 115 000
1.1.1Trichloroethane 800 000
Undecane 800
Xylene 400
Ethylbenzene 200
1.2 Dichloroethane 250 000
Butylbenzenes -

Walk over levels of CH4 found on typical landfills in Hong Kong are shown below6:-

Normal Occasional Maximum


0 - 100 vpm 100 - 500 vpm 10 000 vpm
(0 - 69.1 mg/m3) (69.1 - 345.5 mg/m3) (6 910 mg/m3)

For a typical landfill gas CH4 content of 50% by volume these walk over levels indicate
dilutions of landfill gas at the landfill surface of 1 000 - 10 000 times. Studies in the UK
of three domestic landfill sites have indicated that a dilution in the order of 435 times
would be sufficient to reduce the concentration of toxic landfill gas components below
their relevant occupational exposure limits. Studies in the USA have reached a similar
conclusion.

MONITORING LANDFILL GAS

1.0 Landfill Gas Detection

Detection equipment used is either portable hand held for field work or wall mounted and
fixed for continuous monitoring in structures or enclosed spaces. Portable equipment for
CH4 analysis comprises three types of detectors.

The first type of detector for low level work in the presence of oxygen, operates on the
principle of catalytic combustion on a sensor called a pellistor. This detector is normally
calibrated to read within the range of 0 - 100% of the LEL, i.e. 0 - 5% CH4. The two
ranges are not completely interchangeable as the LEL will depend on the oxygen content
7
of the atmosphere being tested. It must be stressed that this type of equipment will give
a low or possibly zero result for CH4 or other combustible gas should the O2 level be
below about 15%.

The second type of detector is based on the differing thermal conductivity of gases, and is
calibrated for a particular gas, e.g. CH4, and does not give a differing response based on
the O2 content of the atmosphere being tested.

The third type of detector is based on infra red absorbance of CH4 and CO2, this type is
independent of oxygen concentration. The most modern instruments also contain an
electrochemical cell for detection of O2.

Equipment selected for use on landfill sites must be able to measure CH4, CO2, O2 and
atmospheric pressure.

2.0 Permit Requirements

A typical permit specification by the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry for landfill
gas states:-“The Permit Holder shall implement adequate measures to the satisfaction of
the Regional Director, to ventilate or to prevent lateral migration of CH4 gas generated
in the site so that build up of dangerous concentrations is prevented. The concentration
of flammable gas outside the waste disposal area and inside the Site shall not exceed 1%
by volume in air and the concentration of CO2 should not exceed 0.5% by volume in air,
amended for Standard Temperature and Pressure.”

Structures exist around most landfill sites which provide enclosed spaces in which to
analyse for the presence of landfill gas. The presence of landfill gas in these structures
will indicate the need for a formalised monitoring programme.

3.0 Installation of Gas Monitoring Probes

Shallow monitoring probes may be installed around the perimeter of the site. Other
points such as the leachate sumps, sewer manholes, ground water monitoring boreholes
and drains should be included in the monitoring programme. The selection of sites for
probes must be based on potential risk to structures, people and preferential gas migration
pathways.

Deeper and permanent boreholes are advocated by the DWA&F which also specifies
levels in the 'Permit to Operate' of 1.0% CH4 and 0.5% CO2 measured at boreholes within
the site boundary but outside the waste fill. Such boreholes must be at least 1 metre
deeper than the deepest waste. Further, the DWA&F require that monitoring of LFG
emission from a closed landfill take place until the levels shown above are met within the
waste body itself over a two year period. This may take anything from 30 - 100 years if
LFG is not actively extracted.

4.0 Ongoing Monitoring

The selected sites should be monitored for landfill gas on a regular basis, e.g. 3 monthly.
Regular monitoring will provide information for the development of landfill gas
migration trends. The most frequent trends observed include:-
8

• CH4 and CO2 concentrations exhibit a classic inverse relationship with change in
pressure.
• Consistent evidence of landfill gas migration towards a particular boundary of the site.
• Consistent levels of CH4 within the LEL may be observed in certain probes.

If consistent evidence of landfill gas migration to a boundary is observed, then it is often


good practice to install further probes along this boundary to determine the area over
which the migration is occurring.

WHY EXTRACT LANDFILL GAS?

The result of the continuous generation of biogas is a build-up of landfill gas pressure in the site
which drives the migration of the gas to the surface of the site, the interface with the soil and
strata on which the site is located and thus the landfill impacts negatively on its receiving
environment.

Variations in atmospheric pressure due to large weather systems, e.g. cold fronts, cyclones and
inter tropical convergence zone formations exacerbate landfill gas migration. The escaping gas
impairs the working of the landfill, pollutes the receiving environment with offending and
unpleasant odours, causes plant die-back which impairs site rehabilitation work, increases the
fire hazard on the landfill and creates explosive mixtures with air in confined spaces where gas
may accumulate, e.g. basements of buildings and services such as storm water drainage, sewers,
telephone cables. Many cases of explosions caused by landfill gas have been recorded but not
always publicised.

The awareness of landfill gas problems in South Africa is increasing and has caused the
Department of Water Affairs & Forestry (DWAF) to issue permits to operate landfill sites, in
terms of the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989), which contain clauses that enforce
the monitoring and control of landfill gas.

Guidance on how to achieve monitoring and control can be found in the United Kingdom’s
Department of the Environment’s Waste Management Paper No.27 (WMP 27). A first step
towards control is the installation of monitoring probes and boreholes in land outside the landfill
site to detect the migration of landfill gas. WMP 27 indicates that the levels of landfill gas levels
outside the site should be less than 1% CH4 and 1.5% CO2 by volume in air. If these limits are
exceeded then measures to reduce them must be implemented by the site operator.

DETERMINING GAS YIELDS

The information in Appendix I illustrates the expected landfill gas yield per tonne of waste in a
landfill containing putrescible waste. The appended graphs, labelled Bisasar Road Specific Gas
Production and Gas Quantity, illustrate the expected landfill gas yield per tonne of waste in the
Bisasar Road GLB+ landfill. Based on European experience gas production rises to a peak
within about three years of waste deposition and then declines for a period of up to fifty years.
At the peak there may be over 30 m3 of gas being produced in a year by a single tonne of waste.
9

1.0 Methods

The yield of landfill gas from a site may be estimated from two different sources.:-
• Theoretical yield from accurate refuse acceptance data regarding the mass and types of
waste landfilled.
• Pumping trials using normal portable extraction equipment.

Yields should be estimated using both methods where possible.

1.1 Theoretical Yield

The data available regarding waste acceptance in most cases is limited as most landfills
in South Africa do not operate using weigh-bridges. Where weigh-bridge data is
unavailable, information based on estimated original ground levels and current landform
may give an idea of in-place volume. This waste volume together with anticipated
metabolisable carbon content can be used to predict a yield. Events such as fires within
the refuse will render the yield calculations inaccurate.

The following typical parameters are used as part of the input to the yield model:-
• Annual mass of waste landfilled
• Estimated metabolisable carbon
• Proportions of metabolisable carbon available in the short, medium and long term
• Decay half-life of the short, medium and long term components
• Average landfill temperature
• CH4 content of residual gas

Theoretical calculations normally require validation through a pumping trial to ensure


that yields are not over or under estimated.

1.2 Gas Pumping Trial

A pumping trial will involve the installation of 4 - 8 normal extraction wells into selected
areas of the landfill, connecting these wells to a 250 Nm3 h-1 portable pump and flare unit
modified for monitoring purposes. The unit is a normal one in all other aspects of
construction, operation and safety.

1.2.1 Wells - Wells and well-heads are installed as normal for a gas extraction scheme. Wells
are sunk to the base of the landfill using either impact piling or rotary coring techniques.
Installation of the test wells provides extremely useful information on potential problems
likely to be encountered in full scale extraction schemes.

Well-heads are also of the normal type with facilities for measuring the following
parameters:-
• Gas pressure
• Gas temperature
• Gas velocity
10
• Gas composition

1.2.2 Leachate - In common with the experience of other vendors of landfill gas plant in
Europe, the authors have found that the accumulation of leachate within gas wells can
severely restrict collection efficiencies. Thus the gas extraction well-heads installed must
be capable of having leachate pumping systems fitted. The pumping systems must be
capable of operating under explosive, hot, water saturated atmospheres and at low or no
flow rates. A leachate pumping system was included as part of the original trial carried
out on the Bisasar Road landfill and provided valuable information on flows, which
demonstrated the need for a leachate pumping system on bother the gas curtain and the
extensive extraction system.

1.2.3 Trial monitoring - The Bisasar Road trial was monitored on a regular basis for gas flows
and quality and leachate flow. The trial concentrated on exhausting the "residual" gas and
establishing the equilibrium gas flow for the site. This exercise took eight (8) weeks.
Thereafter, the trial continued for a further twelve (12) weeks to monitor equilibrium gas
yield and quality. The measured flows and qualities were then integrated with the theoretical
model and the necessary changes made to the input parameters to match actual and predicted
yields. The confirmed yield of gas and leachate was used to produce a concept design for
ongoing management use. Part of the concept design and report covered the potential
economic use of the anticipated gas yield.

The results of the pumping trial were used to:-


• Design an active gas extraction scheme.
• Design gas cut off curtain schemes.
• Estimate leachate generation.
• Establish if gas yield may be viable as an alternative energy source

GAS YIELD POTENTIAL AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

Many factors affect gas production.

One group of factors is derived from the type and quantity of waste landfilled:-
• Percentage of organic carbon in the waste
• The ease of decomposition of the waste
• Moisture content of the waste.

Another group of factors is related to the daily management of those waste inputs:-
• Daily cover and type
• Degree of compaction
• Infiltration of precipitation
• Fires
• Capping programme
• Waste temperature

The final group of factors are related to manipulation of the refuse landfilled in order to
11
maximise gas generation:-
• Optimisation of waste moisture content
• Addition of high moisture content materials such as sewage activated sludge waste
• Addition of wastes known to enhance gas generation such as phenolic sludges
• Sub-cap leachate recycling with or with out pre-treatment.

In the event that active gas extraction is installed landfill management must ensure the
maximisation of gas yields by incorporating the strategies listed above. Production gas wells
are installed at inter-well distances or centres that allow for optimum gas quality. Gas is
extracted from these wells at rates that also optimise quality. It is essential that air ingress is
minimised to achieve optimum gas quality.

Consequently 100% of the gas generated may not be extracted. Gas collected from individual
wells must be actively managed to achieve acceptable gas quality as too high a rate of extraction
will introduce oxygen back into the landfill and inhibit landfill gas production. Various studies
have however shown that a small amount of oxygen entering the landfill may be beneficial to gas
production2.

1.0 Benefits of Active Gas Extraction

1.1 Migration Control

Active gas extraction is the only effective method of controlling migration from a landfill
site. This control is effected by use of a specifically designed gas well curtain in order to
prevent migration to specific high risk areas. Such areas will generally be those with
preferential migration pathways.

The gas wells for environmental control involve the creation of a gas control curtain
requiring the location of gas wells at smaller centres than for gas production wells.
Curtain wells often produce gas with lower CH4 and higher O2 concentrations in order to
prevent gas escaping. Such gas must usually be flared separately in order to prevent gas
quality problems for downstream users. In some circumstances special "pump and
disperse" systems may be required where gas is of too low a quality to be flared safely.
These systems have additional safety measures installed to allow them to pump
potentially explosive mixtures.

1.2 Odour Control

Odours are always a problem for landfill operators. The normal odour associated with
fresh waste can only be controlled by rapid compaction and cover. The typical odour
associated with landfill gas is not the result of its major components CH4 and CO2 but
trace volatile reduced sulphur, volatile fatty acids and volatile amines. Since landfill gas
is the carrier for these compounds and the mechanism of their dispersal the only effective
management is active extraction and flaring or use of the gas as a thermal energy source.

1.3 Settlement

Landfill geotechnical studies have lately become an important area of research in landfill
engineering. These have shown that landfill settlement has two major components:-
12

• Immediate or physical settlement due to the loading of each new layer of waste placed
on top of the older layers. This is most evident as each new lift is placed.
• Long term or creep settlement which is associated strongly with biodegradation
associated mass transfer in landfill.

The removal of landfill gas has resulted in settlements of 2 m or more in a 30 m deep


landfill being recorded. This settlement arises as a result of the gas, leachate and
condensate removal which allows elements in the waste body to collapse. Settlement
will not be uniform because the waste is a not a homogeneous mixture. Settlement rates
in areas subjected to active extraction in the Bisasar Road landfill vary from 15 - 30 mm
per metre of landfilled waste depth over a period of some 400 days.
A settlement curve for waste of a similar composition (52% builders rubble and soil)
deposited on a nearby site (Springfield Park) demonstrated a settlement in the range of 5 -
9 mm per m refuse depth landfilled over a period of 700 days7. This reflects long term
settlement rather than physical settlement. An extraction scheme running at 1 000 Nm3 h-
1 for 365 days will remove around 11 000 tons of gas. If gas extraction is undertaken

during the life of the site then this settlement will extend the site life by 10% or more
resulting in a considerable cost saving.

1.4 Biological Stability

The amount of gas generated by any particular site is finite. This finite volume can be
allowed to disperse naturally over a long period of time, namely 30 - 50 years, or can be
actively extracted over 10 - 15 years. In both instances the waste mass can be
considered stable once the finite gas volume has been generated. At this stage the
landfill no longer requires monitoring in terms of the Permit to Operate.

1.5 Leachate Extraction

Waste in a landfill may be described as being composed of a series of porous lens shaped
elements. These lenses are separated by a network of structural voids or macropores.
Liquid flow takes place within the interior of the lenses and the structural voids. Waste
compaction increases as additional layers of refuse are built-up and microbiological
degradation takes place. Compaction increases with depth while permeability decreases.
The concept of a continuous leachate piezometric level in landfilled waste is not valid.
Pumping tests have shown highly variable responses to draw down in adjacent wells
within 10 - 15 m of pump test wells. Water level response varied from zero draw down
to a draw down of 6 m below the water level in the pump test well.

A landfill may be described as being a complex mix of flow regimes in multiple layers
comprising leaky, confined, and unconfined aquifers interconnected with aquitards and
aquicludes8. It is normally necessary to remove leachate from gas wells in order to
ensure efficient gas removal. Due to the extreme variation in leachate levels, wells
normally fill from the many perched leachate horizons within the waste mass. The liquid
level within a well frequently reaches levels of 1 m or less from the landfill surface.
Under these circumstances active gas extraction becomes almost impossible unless
leachate is pumped from the wells. The authors have found that leachate level control is
best performed on combined gas and leachate wells rather than in separate ones due to
the complex flow regimes.
13

Pumping leachate from a landfill reduces the potential for leachate to reach the
environment and removes waste breakdown products further hastening waste mass
stabilisation. The pumped leachate may require pre-treatment prior to disposal to a
normal waste water treatment works.

1.6 Other Environmental Benefits

Both CH4 and CO2 contribute to the "Greenhouse" effect9. Green house gases compare in
terms of their radiative effect with that for CO2 as follows:-

Component Relative Rating

CO2 1
CH4 20 - 30
CFCs 10 000

CH4 is 20 - 30 times more efficient in radiating energy back to earth than CO2. There is
normally a trace component of CFCs in landfill gas derived from the disposal of aerosol
cans, CFC blown styrene foams, refrigerators and air conditioner leaks. Collection and
combustion of landfill gas converts the CH4 to CO2 and water. The contribution of
landfill gas to the green house effect is thereby reduced. CFCs are destroyed in flares
with the destruction efficiency depending on flare temperature and design.

Municipal solid waste contains almost 30% biodegradable carbon of which two thirds
may be converted to landfill gas. If the gas is not collected and flared there is a very
substantial contribution to the greenhouse effect from the CH4/CFC component. There is
a further reduction in greenhouse gas generation if the energy value of CH4 replaces
fossil fuel use.

Global estimates for landfill CH4 production are around 40 x 106 tons in 1995. The
overall global production figure is estimated at 375 x 106 tons. High efficiency gas
collection and energy recovery schemes are essential in reducing CH4 emissions.

1.7 Energy Replacement

Landfill gas typically contains up to 50% CH4 and has calorific value of 16 - 18 MJ Nm-3.
The conversion of thermal energy to electricity via a reciprocating spark ignition engine
has an efficiency of 33 - 38% depending degree of use of exhaust heat. The rates vary
depending on the consumer and consumption. Thus, each case has to be treated on its
own merits. For example:-

In the case of Pietermaritzburg Msunduzi TLC, generation of 1 MW of power requires


some 700 Nm3 h-1 of landfill gas at 50% CH4. Installation of a 900 kW capacity spark
ignition engine, generator and switch gear is estimated to cost R 3 000 000. Amortising
this cost over 5 years at 19% interest plus maintenance gives an annual running cost of R
1 231 000. Using the PMLC C1 rate of R0.106 per kWh and monthly MD charge of R
42.12 per kVA on 90% availability gives a potential income of R 1 232 000.

In the case of the Durban Metropolitan Area, the situation is complicated by the cost
14
recovery strategies employed by the Metro Electricity utility. The appended graphs,
labelled BISASAR ROAD Energy potential and Collectable gas yield, illustrate the
energy value of the landfill gas that may be recovered from that landfill. As has been
noted in developed countries in Europe, where energy costs are, in general higher, than in
South Africa, electricity generation is not economic unless special tariff rates are paid for
landfill gas based power. By comparison the United Kingdom Non-Fossil Fuel Option
attracts a preferential tariff of R 0.23 - 0.29 kWh depending on whether generation is on
peak or off peak. UK generation costs are the equivalent of around 8 - 10 c/kWh-1. This
lower cost is largely related to the much lower interest rate prevailing in that country.

Direct thermal use of the gas requires 3% - 4% additional energy to compensate for the
energy lost in heating the non-combustible CO2 component. The direct use of gas in
applications such as cement kilns, asphalt hot mix plants, brick kilns, glass furnaces,
incinerators or steam raising is the most economic within a South African context.

Our current electrical energy price does not cover the cost of generating electrical power
except possibly as standby to replace diesel use or maximum demand lopping.

Emissions from landfill gas combustion can be made to comply with the most stringent
European Standards providing correct flare technology or ignition control in spark
ignition engines is selected. Meeting these strict criteria is more costly.

THE BISASAR ROAD PROJECT

1.0 Investigation

1.1 Landfill DTM

Historical survey data obtained from the City of Durban’s Survey Department was
captured by manual input. This information was used to produce a digital terrain model
(DTM) of the landfill site reflecting the original topography of the site , the current land
form and the final geometric design of the site. The DTM was used to position the
exploratory wells and, later, the gas curtain extraction and production wells for the
landfill gas extraction scheme.

1.2 Pumping Trial

Demonstration pilot wells were initially established during 1991 to evaluate the presence
and concentrations of biogas in the landfill. These wells were sited at the lower end of
the landfill immediately above and adjacent to the main site stability berm. Due to the
presence of a vast perched water body within the landfilled waste extreme difficulty was
experienced using a large machine auger.

Obstacles within the waste such as concrete and tyres frequently resulted in refusal at
relatively shallow depth. Thus, only two wells were established during the demonstration
period. During the demonstration period landfill gas was also monitored in the
weighbridge offices and other facilities adjacent to the landfill. The landfill gas yielded
by the two wells, together with the results of the gas survey, was sufficient to convince
15
Durban Solid Waste to carry out a full gas extraction pumping trial.

In addition to the pilot wells installed during the demonstration project another eight
wells were established, of which only two proved useful, using a FrankiPile Type Piling
Rig. This method was not subject to the refusals experienced with the augur method.
These wells were sited using the DTM described above in order to maximise the waste
fill depth in order to ensure anaerobic conditions and landfill gas production. A
Hofstetter EGH-03 M mobile test pump and flare station was installed and connected to
the gas collection system connected to the extraction wells.
However, upon commissioning the respective gas wells, it soon became evident that the
problem of perched water bodies within the landfill was widespread on this site. Several
different de-watering systems were tested with mixed but inconclusive results. The
extraction wells were re-located until relatively “dry” positions were found where the
wells did not become flooded with perched leachate and the landfill gas pumping trial re-
commissioned.

The pumping trial was carried out over a period of six months. It took 6 weeks for the
gas flow rates and the quality of the landfill gas to attain a steady state. Initially, residual
biogas that had built up within the landfill had to be extracted and microbial catabolism
had to be stimulated to produce the sustainable gas yield that the gas pumping trial was
designed to measure. Having stabilised all the gas wells at a flow rate the following
measurements were carried out at regular intervals:-

• %CH4
• Gas velocity
• Volumetric flow rate
• External temperature
• Barometric pressure

Flow rates at both the well heads and the pump and flare station were varied in order to
determine the sustainable gas yield . These results formed the input which was used to
calculate the specific gas yield for the landfill site as reported in Appendix II.

2.0 Landfill Gas Curtain Scheme

2.1 Objectives

2.1.1 The primary objectives of the landfill gas management system are:-
• to achieve the minimum practical risk of explosion, fire, asphyxiation, odour or
detrimental effect on the health of people, animals or plants due to the presence of
LFG on or through migration off the portion of the site adjacent to the
offices/weighbridge accommodation.
• To exclude as far as is practicable, all landfill gas from buildings, services, ducts and
enclosed spaces on and off that portion of the site adjacent to the offices/weighbridge
accommodation.
• Where gas cannot be fully excluded, to maintain an adequate monitoring regime
within the affected area to ensure safety at all times and to enable remedial measures
to be taken.
16
2.1.2 The secondary objectives are:-
• To prevent unnecessary ingress of air into the site so as to minimise the risk of
underground combustion and to optimise the generation of methane.
• To utilise the LFG as an energy source.

It must be emphasised that the primary function of the LFG management system is to
ensure safety. Safety must not be compromised in the interests of thermal energy usage.

2.2 System Construction

The system consists of six (6) gas wells at 36 m centres some 23 m from the crest of the
retaining berm on the eastern side of the site adjacent to the site office and weighbridge
accommodation. The wells comprise a 160 mm HDPE slotted 10% open area gas
recovery pipe surrounded by graded 19 mm stone. The recovery pipe enters an FRST
300 well head which is connected to 110 mm HDPE gas collection piping. Gas flow
from wells may be individually controlled by the Hofstetter MRV 100 regulator.
Sampling points for determination of gas velocity, temperature and pressure are part of
the MRV regulator.

The wells are connected to a Hofstetter EGH 01A/N pump and flare station capable of
extracting and flaring 250 Nm3 h-1 landfill gas containing from 25 - 50% CH4. The flare
is adjustable for optimum flow rate and flame temperature stoichiometry.

Each gas well contains a leachate removal system. This system consists of a leachate
circulating pump and supply/return piping to an eductor in each well. The circulating
pump is fed from a header tank. The pump is protected from running dry by a low level
cut out. This cut out only operates in the automatic mode and there is no manual
override. Make up to the header tank is from fresh water via a float valve. Excess
leachate overflows to sewer.

Condensate generated in the knock-out system at the pump and flare station is also
discharged to sewer. The knock-out system contains a water seal to prevent air ingress..

2.3 Monitoring and Recording Procedures

A comprehensive programme of monitoring is an essential element in ensuring that the


uncontrolled migration of LFG out of that portion of the site adjacent to the weigh-
bridge/office accommodation does not pose a threat to safety of the environment.

DSW ensure that all instruments required for carrying out the necessary monitoring are
available. The type of instrumentation available must be suitable and approved for the
intended use. Instruments and equipment must only be used in accordance with the
manufacturers guidelines and must be maintained and calibrated in accordance with his
specifications.

The following item of equipment is required for monitoring the scheduled parameters:-

(i) A portable combined CH4, CO2 and O2 detector capable of measuring these
gases in landfill gas mixtures on both the LEL and percent volume scales.
17
(ii) A digital manometer for measuring pressure differentials to within an
accuracy of 1 mbar.
(iii) A vane anemometer for measuring gas velocities in collection piping. This
unit should also be capable of measuring temperature and of providing time
averaged results as well as instantaneous readings.

All these instruments must be intrinsically safe.

2.4 Normal Operating Procedures

2.4.1 Gas wells - The gas production wells are sunk into the landfill with a 400 mm
FrankiPile piling rig. A 160 mm NB, Class 6, HDPE, 10% open area slotted gas
recovery pipe is inserted and the annulus filled with 19mm, no fines, non acid reactive,
stone. A FRST-300 well head fitted with an MRV-100 gas regulator is place over the
recovery pipe. The well is sealed with a 2.0mm HDPE skirt and protected with 1250 mm
diameter concrete manhole rings.

The six gas wells may be "tuned" for gas quality to provide the required flow to prevent
migration of gas from their area of influence. The flow regulation is performed with the
MRV-100 regulator. The methane level in gas drawn from a well must be measured
within 24 - 48 hours after any flow adjustment. Normally CH4 level should not be
allowed to go below 25% v/v. The MRV-100 regulating unit is fitted with a 1" BSP ball
valve/sampling adapter for measuring gas velocity and methane content. In addition a 0 -
50 oC bimetal strip temperature indicator has been inserted in the 2" BSP fitting to
measure gas temperatures. Wells producing large quantities of gas will show gas
temperatures above 40oC, whilst those producing lesser quantities of LFG or with ingress
of air will show temperatures below 30oC.

2.4.2 Leachate extraction - The leachate eductor system receives supply and return water
through the well cap. This water can be heard when the eductor is operating correctly.
Blockages of the eductor nozzles are relatively common due to ingress of plastic, sand
grit etc. A blockage may be detected by the following symptoms:-
• no discernible water noise when circulating pump is running;
• higher than usual pump discharge pressure;
• low gas flows from that well as a result of leachate build up;
• higher than usual methane levels in adjacent monitoring wells as a result of low LFG
flow from the flooded well.

The leachate eductor system must be operated as an integral part of the gas well
management. Each eductor has a leachate pumping capacity of 1000 l h-1. This leachate
will overflow from the tank to sewer during normal operation. Should the level of
leachate in the wells be below the eductor then there will be gas ingress to the system and
gas release in the header tank.

The header tank must be regarded as potentially explosive and oxygen deficient at all
times. The pump timer must be adjusted to accommodate leachate ingress to the wells as
conditions change. The circulating water temperature should not rise above 45 oC.

2.4.3 Pump and flare station - Before starting the flare after any maintenance the blower system
18
must be purged of air. The unit starts after a self check cycle. The gas valve opens and the
ignition transformer is energised. If flame presence is established by the UV monitor then
normal operation is established. If the flame is not detected the unit shuts down. The unit
will re-start a further 4 times. Thereafter the plant will shut down completely. There are 4
fault lights to indicate the reason for a shut down.

These are:-

• High condensate level


• High blower temperature >80oC
• High blower current
• Flame out

Once the fault has been rectified the re-set button is pressed and the unit may be re-
started. The combustion conditions may also be adjusted to attain minimum carbon
monoxide formation. The flame must be set to run with excess air. Common flame
conditions are identified as follows:-

Poor combustion - Flame noise hardly discernible, low flame temperature, CO formation
and odour formation.

Ideal combustion - Flame noise distinctly discernible, steady flame with temperature
>800oC, no CO formation and no odour formation.

Excess air - Flame unsteady and fluttering, flame goes out, flame temperature too high
>900oC and very noisy.

The flame will require adjustment on each occasion that well flow rates are altered in
order to properly combust the changed quality and quantity of gas being extracted.

3.0 Landfill Gas Extraction Scheme

3.1 System Construction

3.1.1 Gas extraction - The system comprises 24 gas wells in two parts. The production well
section has 20 wells at 50 m centres and the gas curtain section has 4 wells at 36 m centres
in an arc on the western side of the landfill adjacent to the informal settlement area.

Each well consists of a 160 mm HDPE slotted 10% open area gas recovery pipe in a 410
mm OD percussion bored well. The recovery pipe enters an FRST 300 well head which is
connected to 180 mm HDPE gas collection piping. Gas flow from wells may be
individually controlled by the Hofstetter MRV 100 regulator. Sampling points for
determination of gas velocity, temperature and pressure are part of the MRV regulator. The
well heads are fitted with a bi-metallic strip temperature gauge monitoring gas temperature.
The wells are connected to a Hofstetter 2 500 Nm3 h-1 pump and flare station. This station is
enclosed in a container which houses a Roots type positive displacement blower and 2 flares
of 500 and 2 000 Nm3 h-1 capacity. The station contains continuous gas analysis equipment
and the unit is controlled using a Programmed Logic Controller (PLC).

3.1.2 Leachate extraction - Each gas well also contains a leachate removal system. This system
19
consists of a leachate circulating pump and supply/return piping to an educator in each well. The
circulating pump is fed from a header tank. The pump is protected from running dry by a low
level cut out and its suction is consequently always flooded. This cut out only operates in the
automatic mode and not on hand. Make up to the header tank is from fresh water via a float
valve. Excess leachate overflows to the sewer.
The system is PLC controlled to extract leachate from 5 different leachate circuits.

3.1.3 Condensate removal - Condensate generated in the knockout system at the pump and flare
station is discharged to sewer. The knock out system contains a seal to prevent ingress. The
water seal must be full at all times.

3.2 Normal Operating Procedures

3.2.1 Gas wells - Each gas production well was sunk into the landfill with a 410 mm FrankiPile
type piling rig. A 160 mm NB, Class 6, HDPE, 10% open area slotted gas recovery pipe is
inserted into each pile driven hole and an FRST-300 well head fitted with an MRV-100 gas
regulator is placed over the recovery pipe. The well is sealed with a flexible seal using a
bentonite plug and the well head assembly is protected with 1 250 mm diameter concrete
manhole rings and a manhole lid.

The gas wells may be "tuned" for gas quality to provide the required flow to prevent
migration of gas from their area of influence. The flow regulation is performed with the
MRV 100 regulator. This item is a rotary piston valve adjusted by screwing the plug in or
out of the valve body. The rotary piston is exposed by unscrewing the cap. Flow changes
are made by adjusting piston depth with the special spanner provided and stored in the flare
station control box.

The methane level in gas drawn from a well must be measured within 24 - 48 hours after
any flow adjustment. Normally CH4 levels should not be allowed to go below 25% v/v. the
ASOM analyser unit in the flare station is set to provide and alarm at 30% CH4 and will trip
the plant at 25% CH4.

The MRV-100 regulating unit is fitted with a 1" BSP ball valve/sampling adapter for
measuring gas velocity and methane content. In addition a 0 - 50 oC bi-metal strip
temperature indicator has been inserted in the 2" BSP fitting to measure gas temperatures.

Wells producing large quantities of gas will show gas temperatures above 40 oC, whilst
those producing lesser quantities of LFG or with ingress of air will show lower temperatures
and may be below 30 oC.

3.2.2 Leachate extraction - The leachate eductor system receives supply and return water through
the well cap. This water can be heard when the eductor is operating correctly.

Blockages of the eductor nozzles are relatively common due to ingress of plastic, sand grit
etc. and may be detected by the following symptoms:-

• no discernible water noise when circulating pump is running


• higher than usual pump discharge pressure
• low leachate discharge to sewer
• low gas flows from that well as a result of leachate build-up
20
• higher than usual methane levels in adjacent monitoring wells as a result of low LFG
flow from the flooded well.

The eductor system must be operated as an integral part of the gas well management. The
eductor system is powered by two pumps feeding 5 lines off a common manifold. The
manifold is split with a cross connection valve to allow either pump to run all five lines.

The take-off from the manifold to feed lines is controlled with electrically driven actuated
ball valves operated via signals from a PLC. The PLC controls the duration, sequence and
frequency of operation of the ball valves. The pumps are protected from running dry by
using cut outs on low tank level and low flow. The return flow from the eductors enters the
holding tank for re-circulation. Excess leachate drains to sewer through a turbine water
meter for flow recording.

Each pump has its own switch gear which can select "Auto" or "Manual" operation and each
valve can be activated manually to open or close. Whilst any pump or valve is being
operated manually none of the safety systems operate. On no account must any pump be
operated manually unless there is an adequately experienced person present at all times.
Each eductor has a leachate pumping capacity of 1 000 l h-1. This leachate will overflow
from the tank to sewer during normal operation. Should the level of leachate in the wells be
below the eductor then there will be gas ingress to the system and gas release in the header
tank. The header tank must be regarded as potentially explosive and oxygen deficient at all
times.

The pump timer must be adjusted to accommodate leachate ingress to the wells as
conditions change. Run the pump for several shorter periods to keep leachate levels low and
to prevent the circulating water temperature from rising as a result of heat exchange with the
hot LFG. The circulating water temperature should not rise above 45 oC. Records of
leachate flow and pump pressure must be kept on a regular basis.

3.2.3 Pump and flare station - The manufacturer’s operations and maintenance manual must be
adhered to at all times. This manual is provided in 3 files.

File 1/3 Process Station


File 2/3 Electrical Control
File 3/3 Appendices

These files provide full details of the manufacturers specifications, operating procedures and
maintenance requirements for the plant.

3.3 Routine Maintenance Procedures

3.3.1 Gas wells and leachate extraction - It is recommended that maintenance be performed as
part of a maintenance contract offered by Envirogas Management Systems (Pty) Ltd.

3.3.2Pump and Flare Station - It is recommended that this be performed as part of a


maintenance contract offered by Envirogas Management Systems (Pty) Ltd. The normal
maintenance interval is every 2000 hours. Blower lubricating oil is however only
changed every 4000 hours or every second service. The typical service will cover
cleaning and/or changing filters, changing oil, sensor and analyser calibration, ignition
21
system performance testing, assessment of the mechanical and electrical condition of all
components.

CONCLUSIONS

Landfill gas causes several problems, including odour propagation, vegetation die-back,
explosive conditions in enclosed spaces and asphyxiating conditions in enclosed spaces. Landfill
gas migration is strongly influenced by falls in atmospheric pressure. The best method of
controlling gas migration is active gas extraction with a pump and flaring of the extracted gas.
This is carried out in two forms:-

Firstly, the installation of gas barrier curtains where there is a known migration pathway or risk
to property and life,

Secondly, through the installation of production wells where the majority of the gas can be
collected of a quality which enables it to be used as an economic source of energy. It may be
used directly as thermal energy or converted into electricity.

Active gas extraction is only possible when the gas wells do not contain leachate. Should
leachate be present it must be extracted from the landfill.

The only way to establish whether leachate pumping is required is by undertaking a pumping
trial which assesses both leachate and gas production potential in the landfill site. Active landfill
gas extraction/leachate pumping and flaring or utilisation from a landfill provides the following
benefits:-

• Landfill gas migration control


• Odour control
• Increased rate of settlement resulting in additional air space for landfilling
• Increased rate of waste stabilisation
• Reduction in leachate migration
• Reduction in Greenhouse gas emission
• Fossil Fuel Energy Replacement
22

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Robinson, H., Sustainable Waste Management : is there a future for landfills? Proc. of
WasteCon’96, Institute of Waste Management, Durban 17 - 21 September 1996.

2. Waste Management Paper No. 27 "Landfill gas" Second Impression 1992, United
Kingdom Department of the Environment.

3. Falzon, J., Landfill gas: An Australian Perspective, Proceedings SARDINIA 97, Vol. II,
Page 487-496.

4. "Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials", Ed N Irving Sax, 6th Edition, 1984.

5. BKS Report, Monitoring and projection of settlement on the Springfield Park


Development - 1986.

6. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Partners, January 1992, Tseung Kwan O and SENT
Landfill, Landfills Investigation, Final Report, Environment Protection Department Hong
Kong.

8. Bendz, D.P., et al, "Flow Regime in Landfills - Implications for Modelling", Proceedings
Sardinia '97, Vol. II, pp 97 - 108.

9. Meadows, M. et al, "Global Methane Emissions from Solid Waste Disposal Sites", Proc.
Sardinia 97, Vol. IV, pp 3 - 10.