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Gas From Trash Could Benefit Jail

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That half-eaten sandwich you tossed in 2002 could end up providing power to the Bernalillo County jail.

City Hall is moving forward with a $1 million plan to start harnessing the gas produced by rotting garbage at the Cerro Colorado Landfill.

A pipeline would carry the gas about two miles to the Metropolitan Detention Center, where it would be used in hot-water boilers. The city already collects the landfill gas, but it’s burned off for safety reasons, officials say.


Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

“We’re going to be able to turn it into energy and replace some fossil-fuel use with it,” said Jill Holbert, Albuquerque’s director of solid-waste management. “We’re taking a negative and turning it into a positive.”

Albuquerque city councilors late Wednesday unanimously approved the award of the contract to SCS Field Services in Long Beach, Calif.

Design and construction are expected to cost a little over $1 million altogether, and the project could be done in a year to a year and a half, according to city documents.

The production of landfill gas has been a longtime coming because of Albuquerque’s dry climate. It takes years for the decomposing garbage – primarily food and yard waste – to produce the gas.

But now that it’s here, the landfill could be a source of energy for the next 100 years, Holbert said. The Cerro Colorado is expected to be open for another 60 to 70 years, and it will keep producing gas for another 30 years after that, she said.

The amounts produced, however, will vary. The initial project will use about half the gas that’s generated now, Holbert said. After the jail pipeline is built, the project could be expanded to provide energy to a glass-recycling kiln at the landfill, too, according to city documents.

The operating cost of the new gas pipeline will be fairly cheap and likely will be offset partially by the installation of solar panels, Holbert said.

The county, meanwhile, could save money on the energy used to heat water at the jail for laundry, showers and other purposes. Officials estimated last year that the pipeline could provide about $26,000 worth of energy a year for the jail.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is contributing about $500,000 to the project, the city around $300,000 and the county about $230,000.

The landfill already has 46 wells that extract the gas, which is burned off with a flare. Much of the gas is methane, so burning it is intended to help avoid pollution that contributes to global warming.

SCS Field Services was the higher rated of two firms that responded to a request for proposals.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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