Friday, March 21, 2014

New facility turns garbage gas to green energy

By Erika Holmes, communications manager, Waste 2 Resources Program

The 304th Street Landfill in Graham has a new addition that helps address climate change by creating energy from waste. BioFuels Washington, working in partnership with Pierce County Recycling, Composting and Disposal, or Land Recovery, Inc. (LRI), built a new facility that converts LRI’s landfill gas into electricity. Turning waste into usable resources is a goal of the Washington Department of Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program. Along with Governor Inslee, our staff congratulated BioFuels Washington’s and LRI’s efforts at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in February.

Photo courtesy of Governor Inslee's Flickr page.
Working with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Ecology provided engineering assistance to the project by reviewing plans to ensure they met state laws and would result in a quality facility. We also participated in Pierce County’s study to assess whether it would be more economically effective to remove food waste for composting or to leave it in and capture the gas produced for energy.


  • Converting landfill gas to energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting the need to burn fossil fuels to produce the same amount of power.
  • Increasing the available electric power supply, instead of burning off energy in landfill flares, uses a resource that was previously wasted.
  • Landfill-gas-to-energy represents another way to put organic waste in Washington to good use, along with composting and anaerobic digesters.

How landfill-gas-to-energy works

Many landfills use flares to burn off gas created by bacteria during anaerobic decomposition of food and other organic wastes. Landfill gas is around half methane and half carbon dioxide, and it must be used or burned off to control explosive hazards.

Instead of burning off gas, the first phase of the BioFuels Washington facility converts around 1,600 standard cubic feet per minute of landfill gas to electricity. This phase uses about 50 percent of the gas currently generated at the 304th Street Landfill by preparing it to fuel three on-site engine/generator sets for a total of 4.5 megawatts of power production, or enough to power 3,000 average homes per year. The electricity is sold to Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and fed into PSE’s distribution system. LRI continues to flare the balance of the gas generated in the landfill.

Future plans

The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the beginning of the first of three planned phases in this project. Converting landfill gas to electricity is Phase 1A, and 1B will add the ability to convert landfill gas to compressed natural gas. Phases 2 and 3 will increase capacity to produce more electricity and compressed natural gas.

If all phases are completed, BioFuels Washington expects to produce up to 15.0 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 10,000 homes per year! Alternately, they could provide compressed natural gas to power more than 1,000 vehicles driving 25,000 miles per year.

For more information on reducing waste in Washington, please visit Ecology’s website or contact Erika Holmes at 360-407-6149. More photos of the ribbon-cutting ceremony are available on Governor Inslee's Flickr page.

If you have questions about this project, you can contact Frank Mazanec with BioFuels Energy LLC at (760) 944-4572 or Jody Snyder with Waste Connections at (253) 927-6810.

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