Dyer: Campbell Mountain Landfill project stops powerful greenhouse gas

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas. The good news is that methane doesn’t last very long in the atmosphere: it has a half-life of nine years, while carbon dioxide lasts 27 years. The bad news is that during the first 20 years in the atmosphere, methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas that a single molecule of methane warms as much as 84 molecules of carbon. Rather than seeing this as a problem, think of it as a lever. If we can focus on reducing methane immediately, we will see an immediate impact on global warming.

If we can focus on reducing methane immediately, we will see an immediate impact on global warming

Methane is naturally emitted by wetlands, oceans and termites, but the largest amount of methane comes from human activities. Land conversion, for example in South America where forests are converted to agriculture, creates a large amount of methane. Growing rice in flooded paddies in Asia also releases methane. The largest sources of methane in North America are oil and natural gas activities, cow burps (scientifically known as eructation from enteric fermentation) and poorly decomposing material in landfills. In North America 18% of methane comes from landfills.

Biocover test site at Campbell Mountain Landfill. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

Biocover test site at Campbell Mountain Landfill. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

Some landfills keep methane out of the atmosphere by installing pipes to collect it and burning it off at the surface (surprisingly, this “flaring” is better for the atmosphere than letting methane escape). The Vernon landfill currently flares methane. Landfills that produce large quantities can actually use the methane to generate electricity or natural gas. Both Salmon Arm and the Glenmore Landfill in Kelowna sell to Fortis BC. In the south Okanagan neither of these techniques are cost effective: our landfills are small and our dry climate further reduces methane production.

What can we do about the methane escaping from smaller landfills in the Okanagan? RDOS has been working with Sperling Hansen Associates on a pilot project at the Campbell Mountain Landfill outside Penticton. The goal was to develop a way to prevent the landfill from releasing methane into the atmosphere.

READ MORE: Process limits greenhouse gas escape at Salmon Arm Landfill

The pilot project is using a product of waste water treatment (mixed with local wood chips and sand for aeration) to cover parts of the landfill. For the project, they measured the amount of methane emerging from covered and uncovered parts: the landfill areas covered by the mixture are absorbing nearly 75% of the methane. These covered areas could eventually be covered in grasses. The Seven Mile Landfill biocover project, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, is so successful they generate excess carbon credits.

READ MORE: Port McNeill will earn a share of the carbon credits earned by Seven Mile Landfill

What are the “waste water treatment products”? At the wastewater treatment plant, bacteria are

used to break down (or compost) sludge (human feces and toilet paper). Heat is used to kill any pathogens. Then the material is aged (like a good wine) for 10 to 20 years. At this point the material is carbon-rich soil: there’s no germs, no smell and it doesn’t attract pests. Metro Vancouver has this fine aged soil in abundance. They normally ship it for disposal to Alberta and were happy to make it available to RDOS. The Campbell Mountain pilot project already uses local wood chips. Eventually they could also use local waste water treatment products.

Waste water treatment product being mixed with sand and local woodchips at Campbell Mountain. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

This is great news for Penticton and the south Okanagan: moving forward the garbage we send to landfills will emit less methane. It is also good news for small landfills everywhere: in regions where landfills don’t produce enough methane for electricity generation, or flaring, we can at least protect the atmosphere from methane release.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: Financing energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Business district is pictured during a traffic jam in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Morning Start: By 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged

Your morning start for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020

Gord Portman has been reunited with his dog Zippy after reaching out to the community for help covering the cost of Zippy’s surgery. Zippy had successful mouth surgery Nov. 19, 2020 and has made a full recovery since. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton rallies to save dog’s life

Gord Portman reached out to the community to help with the cost of his dog’s surgery

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

(Ty Hainsworth / Facebook)
No injuries after fire rips through Saran Fruit Market near Oliver

A fruit stand caught fire Tuesday afternoon

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Ashley Stone’s Village App is one of the semi-finalists for the Total Mom Pitch. (The Village App - Facebook)
Kelowna mom’s app semi-finalist in Canada’s Total Mom Pitch

Ashley Stone is developing an app called Village, a community-based messaging platform where people can ask for and offer help

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Beaver Creek RCMP Cpl. Robert Drapeau, left to right, Gary Bath, Lynn Marchessault, Payton Marchessault, Rebecca Marchessault and Tim Marchessault pose in this recent handout photo near the Canada-U.S. border crossing near Beaver Creek, Yukon. A family reunion trip for the woman from Georgia that left them stranded ended on a bright note when Bath drove them to the Alaskan border following an appeal for help. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Gary Bath *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Help from B.C. man allows American family to reunite in Alaska

Lynn Marchessault drove from Georgia to the Alaska border to join her husband, who serves in U.S. military

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Garage in Kelowna burns to the ground, blaze deemed suspicious

Fire crews responded to the scene just after 4:30 p.m.

Most Read