Reporting Jeff Ray
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Americans throw away more trash per capita than any other country on the planet. That is a lot of trash. And where garbage piles up, there is a lot of gas. It is a matter of chemistry.
“The natural process of decomposition of waste produces methane gas,” explained Bob Kneis, the Fort Worth district manager at Progressive Waste Solutions. His company operates the Turkey Creek Landfill, south of Alvarado in Johnson County. “And methane gas is a huge contributing factor to greenhouse gases and the issues we have today.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency counts 2,400 municipal and county landfills across the country. Combined, these landfills account for 17 percent of all human-related methane emissions in the country. And methane is 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.
According to the EPA, only about 600 of the U.S. landfills have methane-capture systems in place. But a company in Texas is trying to increase that number. Morrow Renewables installed a methane-capture system at the Turkey Creek Landfill last month. The landfill takes in about 2,000 tons of municipal trash each day, making it a medium-sized landfill by volume.
Large landfills already capture their methane. Most of them take the gas and either flare it off or use it to power a generator. But a methane-capture system has not made economic sense for a small-sized or medium-sized landfill, until Morrow Renewables designed a smaller scale operation that is able to produce commercial-ready methane gas to sell directly to a gas company.
Luke Morrow is president of Morrow Renewables. His father started the business in the early days of the natural gas boom, making a small fortune working major gas fields like the San Juan Basin in the Four Corners region. While working on a small landfill project more than a decade ago, Luke Morrow and his team figured out a way to clean the gas enough to make it ready for a pipeline. “We gather the gas off at the landfill here at Turkey Creek,” he explained. “Bring it to a central location. We take the CO2 out of the gas, and other constituents, and put it in a natural gas pipeline.”
The Morrow gas capture system is scaled to be profitable in a medium-sized landfill, like the Turkey Creek Landfill. This is an important niche. The EPA estimates that Morrow’s system could work in almost 500 landfills that currently allow the methane gas to escape right into the atmosphere.
There is no upfront cost for the landfill owner. Morrow Renewables designs, builds and staffs the operation with their own money. This company is making it easy for landfill owners to capture gas instead of pollute. “It’s something you can go home at night and feel good about what you are doing. It is good for the environment,” Luke Morrow said. “It is good for the communities and a great resource.”
It solves a big problem in our waste stream with a small stream of profit.
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