Landfill gas: the economics?

The purpose of this data-file is to model the typical costs of producing raw landfill gas (a mixture of CH4, CO2 and other impurities) at a solid waste landfilling facility. Raw and unprocessed landfill gas can be economical to commercialize at a cost of $2-4/mcfe. Capex, opex and other costs of landfill gas are built up in the data-file.

Our capex and opex cost build-ups for landfill gas are derived from EPA guidance and our gas evolution equations are derived from a line-by-line breakdown of landfill products (below). Note this is prior to gas cleaning and upgrading.

We estimate that a typical landfill facility may be able to capture and abate 70% of its methane leaks for a CO2-equivalent cost of $5/ton. Other landfill gas pathways get more complex and expensive.

Detractors from nature-based carbon offsets argue that the CO2 captured by trees inevitably degrades and returns to the atmosphere, rendering reforestation useless. Historically, the IPCC assumed 50% of wood decomposed in landfills. But this was based on flawed lab-studies that started by grinding up “wood” into a fine dust. More recent data are tabulated in the data-file, from studies of wood in landfill sites. 80-95% of the carbon in wood remains after 40-100 years.

This model feeds into a deeper-dive research report, exploring the opportunities for landfill gas in the energy transition.

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