Repurposing methane produced from landfills for a more sustainable refuse market
It’s no secret that trucking markets around the world are calling for cleaner fuel alternatives. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Clean Trucking Initiative to “ensure emissions reductions occur in the real world in all types of truck operation.”
With a specific reference to heavy-duty trucks and their impact on the environment, the refuse market has a unique opportunity to increase their use of renewable resources. How? By capturing and reusing landfill gases.
Landfills are an extreme threat to the ozone and are responsible for emitting raw methane gases. Raw methane gas is 40 times more potent than tail pipe exhaust and will remain trapped in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. But on the flip side, methane emissions from landfills also represent an undervalued opportunity to seize and repurpose a significant energy resource.
Once methane is produced, it can go through three different levels of treatments in order to repurpose the gas in a productive manner. The primary and secondary treatments remove moisture and impurities, respectively. If these two steps are completed, the gas can be used to generate electricity in power generation plants. If the methane undergoes a third treatment to remove CO2, N2, O2, and VOCs (as needed), it can be reused for vehicle fuel as renewable natural gas (RNG).
This process creates the opportunity for a full life cycle of natural gas landfills. Waste companies, like Waste Management, are sending RNG-powered trucks to your neighborhood to collect waste and recycling. The material collected is then deposited into landfills and over time produces methane. That methane becomes a RNG through the cleansing process and then fuel to power the natural gas powered trucks that collect the waste. Cummins’ natural gas engine line already produces emissions 90% lower than EPA requirements; adding this fuel type further reduces Waste Management’s vehicles to net sub-zero emissions!
On a larger scale, there are also opportunities for waste companies to funnel their RNG from landfills into the national natural gas pipeline network. The U.S. natural gas pipeline system totals over three million miles of pipeline across the country, providing natural gas to factories, hotels, city-owned facilities, convention sites, airports, commercial ship and motorized vehicle refueling sites, and finally into residential homes across the country.
While both RNG and fossil natural gas share the same pipeline, the year-over-year expansion of injecting RNG into the pipeline will continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. To further encourage the growth and use of RNG in the United States, the EPA established the Renewable Identification Number program (or RIN). Fleets who contract the purchases and use RNG from authorized brokers receive full Greenhouse Gas reduction credits when pulling natural gas off the pipeline.
It seems like a perfect solution. Is that because it is? Landfills, dairy farms, livestock farms and sewerage treatment plants all produce raw methane naturally. Capturing this abundant energy source and converting it to a very affordable energy source, then coupling it with Cummins’ renewable natural gas engine delivers net sub-zero emissions goods movement today.
Next question, please.
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Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas