Landfill gas collection systems

Anaerobic decomposition of organic solid waste in the landfill site produces landfill gas (LFG). LFG mainly consists of methane and carbon dioxide, both of which are odorless. Trace constituents of other volatiles, often malodorous or toxic gases, are also found in LFG. LFG can migrate through soil into structures located on or near landfills. Since methane presents a fire or explosive threat, LFG must be controlled to protect property, public health and safety. There are also E.A. requirements of landfill owners/operators to reduce reactive organic gas emissions to improve air quality. Thus, engineered solutions are needed to efficiently and safely monitor, collect, and process landfill gas. A positive side to LFG control is energy recovery. Today's technology allows a landfill owner/operator to recover the energy in LFG while reducing gas emissions. Revenue from the sale of LFG or electricity generated using LFG as a fuel can offset costs for landfill environmental compliance.

Gas Collection

Landfill gas can be collected by either a passive or an active collection system. A typical collection system, either passive or active, is composed of a series of gas collection wells placed throughout the landfill. The number and spacing of the wells depend on landfill-specific characteristics, such as waste volume, density, depth, and area. As gas is generated in the landfill, the collection wells offer preferred pathways for gas migration. Most collection systems are designed with a degree of redundancy to ensure continued operation and protect against system failure. Redundancy in a system may include extra gas collection wells in case one well fails. The system-specific components for passive and active gas collection systems are discussed below.

Passive gas collection systems use existing variations in landfill pressure and gas concentrations to vent landfill gas into the atmosphere or a control system. Passive collection systems can be installed during active operation of a landfill or after closure. Passive systems use collection wells, also referred to as extraction wells, to collect landfill gas. The collection wells are typically constructed of perforated or slotted HDPE and are installed vertically throughout the landfill to depths ranging from 50% to 90% of the waste thickness. A passive collection system may also include horizontal wells located below the ground surface to serve as conduits for gas movement within the landfill. Horizontal wells may be appropriate for landfills that need to recover gas promptly (e.g, landfills with subsurface gas migration problems), for deep landfills, or for active landfills. Sometimes, the collection wells vent directly to the atmosphere.
The efficiency of a passive collection system partly depends on how well the gas is contained within the landfill. Gas containment can be controlled and altered by the landfill collection system design.

Active Gas collection systems are considered the most effective means of landfill gas collection. Active gas collection systems include vertical and horizontal gas collection wells similar to passive collection systems. Unlike the gas collection wells in a passive system, however, wells in the active system should have valves to regulate gas flow and to serve as a sampling port. Sampling allows the system operator to measure gas generation, composition, and pressure. Active gas collection systems include gas boosters or pumps to move gas out of the landfill and piping that connects the collection wells to the flare. Gas boosters or pumps pull gas from the landfill by creating low pressure within the gas collection wells. The low pressure in the wells creates a preferred migration pathway for the landfill gas. The size, type, and number of gas boosters required in an active system to pull the gas from the landfill depend on the amount of gas being produced. With information about landfill gas generation, composition, and pressure, a landfill operator can assess gas production and distribution changes and modify the pumping system and collection well valves to most efficiently run an active gas collection system. The system design should account for future gas management needs, such as those associated with landfill expansion.

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Landfill Gas Collection Systems