Dyer: Campbell Mountain Landfill project stops powerful greenhouse gas

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas. The good news is that methane doesn’t last very long in the atmosphere: it has a half-life of nine years, while carbon dioxide lasts 27 years. The bad news is that during the first 20 years in the atmosphere, methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas that a single molecule of methane warms as much as 84 molecules of carbon. Rather than seeing this as a problem, think of it as a lever. If we can focus on reducing methane immediately, we will see an immediate impact on global warming.

If we can focus on reducing methane immediately, we will see an immediate impact on global warming

Methane is naturally emitted by wetlands, oceans and termites, but the largest amount of methane comes from human activities. Land conversion, for example in South America where forests are converted to agriculture, creates a large amount of methane. Growing rice in flooded paddies in Asia also releases methane. The largest sources of methane in North America are oil and natural gas activities, cow burps (scientifically known as eructation from enteric fermentation) and poorly decomposing material in landfills. In North America 18% of methane comes from landfills.

Biocover test site at Campbell Mountain Landfill. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

Biocover test site at Campbell Mountain Landfill. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

Some landfills keep methane out of the atmosphere by installing pipes to collect it and burning it off at the surface (surprisingly, this “flaring” is better for the atmosphere than letting methane escape). The Vernon landfill currently flares methane. Landfills that produce large quantities can actually use the methane to generate electricity or natural gas. Both Salmon Arm and the Glenmore Landfill in Kelowna sell to Fortis BC. In the south Okanagan neither of these techniques are cost effective: our landfills are small and our dry climate further reduces methane production.

What can we do about the methane escaping from smaller landfills in the Okanagan? RDOS has been working with Sperling Hansen Associates on a pilot project at the Campbell Mountain Landfill outside Penticton. The goal was to develop a way to prevent the landfill from releasing methane into the atmosphere.

READ MORE: Process limits greenhouse gas escape at Salmon Arm Landfill

The pilot project is using a product of waste water treatment (mixed with local wood chips and sand for aeration) to cover parts of the landfill. For the project, they measured the amount of methane emerging from covered and uncovered parts: the landfill areas covered by the mixture are absorbing nearly 75% of the methane. These covered areas could eventually be covered in grasses. The Seven Mile Landfill biocover project, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, is so successful they generate excess carbon credits.

READ MORE: Port McNeill will earn a share of the carbon credits earned by Seven Mile Landfill

What are the “waste water treatment products”? At the wastewater treatment plant, bacteria are

used to break down (or compost) sludge (human feces and toilet paper). Heat is used to kill any pathogens. Then the material is aged (like a good wine) for 10 to 20 years. At this point the material is carbon-rich soil: there’s no germs, no smell and it doesn’t attract pests. Metro Vancouver has this fine aged soil in abundance. They normally ship it for disposal to Alberta and were happy to make it available to RDOS. The Campbell Mountain pilot project already uses local wood chips. Eventually they could also use local waste water treatment products.

Waste water treatment product being mixed with sand and local woodchips at Campbell Mountain. Photo courtesy of Sperling Hansen.

This is great news for Penticton and the south Okanagan: moving forward the garbage we send to landfills will emit less methane. It is also good news for small landfills everywhere: in regions where landfills don’t produce enough methane for electricity generation, or flaring, we can at least protect the atmosphere from methane release.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: Financing energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
Alberta woman facing assault charge after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Shuswap campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A Shuswap couple reported having fallen victim to a family emergency telephone scam. (File image)
Shuswap couple fall victim to family emergency scam

Person claiming to be couple’s son said he was injured and in jail

Coordinator of the Secwepemc Landmark and Trail Sign Project, Libby Jay Chisholm, holds the draft designs of Eric Kutschker, Rod Tomma and Tilkotmes Tomma. (Jacob Sutra Brett photo)
Grant sought for Secwepemc Landmark Project

Project involves creation of landmarks pointing out locations of historical importance

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Report of gunfire leads RCMP to men barricaded in North Shuswap home

Chase RCMP said investigation related to firearms offences is ongoing

Onlookers watch the CP Rail Holiday Train pull into Sicamous in 2019. (File Photo)
Shuswap food banks will benefit from online Holiday Train show

Concert will play live on CP Rail’s Facebook page on Dec. 12

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

St. James Anglican Church, Armstrong, B.C. (Google Maps).
Prayer at North Okanagan council meetings a violation of religious neutrality: study

New study found 23 municipalities held prayer sessions at inaugural meetings in 2018, in violation of a Supreme Court decision

A worker at Kelowna Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. (File)
Kelowna airport worker tests positive for COVID-19

Individual, who works as a screener, was asked to self-isolate, at which time they tested positive

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

The Vernon Aquatic Centre will be closed for its annual three-week maintenance period from Aug. 26 to Sept. 16. (City of Vernon - photo)
Chlorine leak closes North Okanagan pool

18 swimmers evacuated, pool opens shortly after

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read