Daviess Fiscal Court is in negotiations to turn methane gas generated at the Daviess County Landfill into revenue; truly testing the old adage, “one’s man trash is another man’s treasure.”
Currently, the 20 gas wells underneath the landfill pull in 360 cubic feet of methane per minute, or roughly 2,693 gallons. In all, the wells pull in almost 3.9 million gallons of gas daily from the breakdown of the landfill’s organic material that is ultimately “flared-off.” If the court can wrangle a deal, this immense amount of gas would be collected and converted into clean, “green-gas,” said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.
“We put out a request for proposals and have been vetting out various responses,” he said. “There isn’t much there money-wise, but when you are trying to be environmentally conscious and can do something that doesn’t cost you much or anything at all, then it doesn’t make sense not to do it. Our goal is that they would come in, pick up the capital cost, add wells and maintain all of it. A major part of our expense comes in dewatering, maintaining the wells, etc., and all of that would be taken over by whoever comes in because it would be in their favor to collect as much as possible.”
Gas wells are installed in nonworking areas of the landfill that have been “filled-up” and placed with a temporary cap. The county is required to install the wells within five years.
This is not the first time that the court has attempted to turn the flow of gas into a revenue stream. In 2009, county officials were working toward a 20-year contract with E.ON U.S., the corporation that operated Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric Co, in the hopes that they could generate $2 million over the course of the contract. Ultimately, E.ON U.S. was purchased by PPL Corp., and due to a low market, any hope for a deal fell through. Aside from diminishing prices, the county was forced to open one side of the landfill for a 10-acre expansion that allowed gas to escape, and they had to deal with water entering into the wells, an issue that has since been addressed.
Looking forward, despite having addressed the water issues, the county still has to deal with lower prices in the market as well as the expectation that any partner takes on most if not all of the operating and construction costs, said David Smith, director of legislative services and ABC coordinator.
I don’t know if we will come to an agreement or not,” he said. “We don’t want to risk dollars in any venture or put a burden on the taxpayer. We are asking them to take on 100% of the cost to construct these plants and pipelines with a guarantee to split profits with us while they recoup expenses, which could take 10 to 20 years. We are always hesitant to enter into anything that doesn’t provide a benefit. Those parameters make coming to an agreement difficult because the margins are so tight. I say we will know something in the next couple of months.”
Another potential obstacle is the amount of methane that is generated. As it stands, the amount of methane CFM isn’t high enough to really be attractive to potential companies. However, the landfill’s CFM would increase if a company came in and installed more wells, Smith said.
For county officials, a finalized deal would yield three benefits, he said.
”There are two financial benefits and one public,” he said. “In terms of the financial benefits, any revenue we collect is great for the taxpayer and anyone coming in will be taking on the cost of collecting the gas. To the public benefit, that gas would no longer be burned off and used by another actor as a clean energy source.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, email@example.com