SWACO uses landfill to create clean fuels

Jun 21, 2005

Reader's Digest this week has ranked Columbus the fourth cleanest city in America. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio wishes to do more. Starting today they will begin the process of turning landfills into a generator of clean fuels for the city and beyond.

"We usually think of landfills as places where things end, not where they begin, but today we are here to mark the moment when a what if becomes a reality. Even better, we're using a problem to solve another problem," says Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy. Landfills create no products, and clean fuels are in demand. What the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio intends to do is use the landfills to create these clean fuels. As garbage decays in a landfill it gives off methane and carbon dioxide. These gases cannot be released into the atmosphere, and so at the landfill in Franklin County outside the Jackson Township these gases are collected and burned.

Today SWACO and FirmGreen broke ground on a facility that will use those captured gases to create Compressed Natural Gas and, later, BioDiesel.

As the project develops the methane from the landfill will be purified using CO2, also from the landfill, and then turned into green products. In the beginning the methane will be used to provide heat, hot water, and electricity to SWACO Buildings. Later, the methane will be converted to Compressed Natural Gas.

Steve Wilburn, President of FirmGreen, the company leading the project, explains, "We're going to be making methane, but it's going to be compressed into vehicular fuel. We're actually going to fuel the landfill vehicles, and some of the other duty vehicles here, with the methane from the landfill."

In the final stage Wilburn says the methane will be converted to methanol and combined with soy oil produced in the surrounding area to create BioDiesel. This product will be sold, and can be used in regular diesel engines, though BioDiesel pollutes less and is not as abrasive on engine parts.

The project represents an $18 million investment by FirmGreen, and will be operational within the year. While the individual pieces of technology have been successfully demonstrated elsewhere, this marks the first time they will be used together and on this scale.

This solution will help to eliminate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and turn those gases into a commodity that will make SWACO and FirmGreen money.