Turning Landfill Gas Into Electricity

Posted by Ronald Jonash on Oct 11, 2019 12:07:00 PM
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Ethekwini Municipality - The first landfill Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project in Africa brings advanced solutions to developing world problems

Innovation

eThekwini Municipality (City of Durban) in partnership with the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund is running the first CDM certified land-fill to electricity project in Africa — this was made viable by selling carbon credits to developed countries.

Sustainability

The project converts landfill gas that is about 40-60% methane (CH4) into electricity, reducing the reliance on coal-fired plants CH4 is 20-25 times more harmful than CO2 as a green-house gas.

Results

In total, the project is expected to reduce equivalent emissions in CO2 by 3.8 million tons ~450,000 tons out of the 3.8 million would have been emitted by alternative power generation over the project lifespan of the sites.

Drivers

TACKLE THE ELEPHANT:

CH4 is 21 times more harmful than CO2 to the environment and landfills and represents 5-15% of total CH4 emissions; therefore, the problem of landfill gas emissions has to be addressed to reduce global warming

INTERNATIONAL PUSH:

During the World Summit hosted by South Africa in 2002, Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF) — managed by the World Bank — suggested the development of a landfill gas utilization project to eThekwini


DEMAND FOR CARBON CREDIT:

The emission limits set by the Kyoto Protocol — which entered into force in 2006 — raised the demand for carbon credits which were issued by the CDM as a certified emission saving project

Barriers

LACK OF EXPERIENCE:

Durban Solid Waste (DSW), the municipal agency responsible for management and operation of the landfill sites, did not have the necessary experience in landfill gas utilization


NON-GREEN IS CHEAPER:

From the munipality’s point of view, a landfill-gas-to-electricity project is not attractive because purchasing electricity from the local provider is estimated to be about 66% cheaper on the long run in South Africa


ADMINISTRATION:

Because of the lack of experience in CDM projects, the administration
required to become a CDM-certified project and to sell carbon credits was underestimated both in terms of human resources and cost

Enablers

PARTNERSHIP:

DSW started an advanced research collaboration with the University of
KwaZulu-Natal to study the management of landfill gas emissions, which became internationally recognized

CARBON TRADING:

The CDM, under the Kyoto Protocol, allowed project owners to generate an additional revenue stream through the sale of carbon credits to PCF, thus making the project financially viable

TEAMWORK:

The dedication and passion of Lindsay Strachan (the DSW project
manager), the full backing from the Mayor and the City Council, and the
help of the Electricity Department resulted in a success story

Impact

ENVIRONMENT:

According to an analysis, the project is able to realize a reduction of 7.7 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2025, even though the PCF agreement is for the purchase of 3.8 million tons of reduction


MUNICIPALITY:

The project will realize a net profit of $7.25 million over the expected agreement period of 12 years from the sale of carbon credits and the sale of electricity


RESIDENTS:

The project improves the air quality and contributes to the protection of groundwater — these are particularly important because both have caused acute odor problems for surrounding communities

Whats Next?

With its second phase recently launched, the landfill project is expected to raise the efficiency of methane recovery to 83% by 2012 compared to the 7% in 2003. eThekwini Municipality’s work helped to explore the CDM pathway and prompted work on similar projects on the African continent in the near future.

 

Topics: Sustainable Innovation