Mt. Carberry landfill gas technician Mark Nadeau, an AVRRDD employee, explained that the new landfill gas processing equipment that was integrated with some that was already on site at the Mt. Carberry landfill in Success is designed to dry, filter, clean, cool, and compress gas to meet the exact requirements of its sole customer, Gorham Tissue and Paper (GPT) in Gorham. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
May 15, 2013SUCCESS — The nearly $3.3 million landfill gas (LFG) project that turns decomposed organic matter — garbage — in Phases I and II of the Mount Carberry landfill into an alternative energy source that also helps reduce global warming is technically not yet completed. Nonetheless, the gas is flowing at 43 degrees F. through a two-mile-long pipe to the District's sole customer — Gorham Paper and Tissue (GPT) Company at Cascades in Gorham.
The Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse Disposal District (AVRRDD) has transported 71,580 MMBTUs to GPT since it started selling LFG in the first week of Nov. 2012 until April 25. After operating for less than a half a year, it is too soon to pinpoint the estimated payback period, but likely it is somewhere between five and 10 years.
GPT relies primarily on natural gas from the TransCanada-Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS), realizing at least $1 million a month in savings over burning oil. The District's original plan to blend natural gas with landfill gas was dropped when Patriarch Partners brought the then-shuttered paper mill on two years ago on May 17, 2011.
"We're just switching over to a new computer system and getting ready to install a new automatic gas analyzer at the landfill," explained Sharon Gauthier, executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse Disposal District on a Wednesday afternoon tour, noting that the system was upgraded to a 1600 SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute) system, up from a 1200 SCFM system.
"Contractor R.H. White has been extremely helpful." AVRRDD, that owns the landfill and gas-processing facility, serves the City of Berlin and the towns of Gorham, Jefferson, Milan, Northumberland, Dummer, Errol, Randolph, and Stark plus the county's Unincorporated Places.
Tim Fiske operates the District's scale and scale house located in Berlin, off the east side of Hutchins Street across from parcel on which Cate Street Capital of Portsmouth is constructing the Burgess BioPower plant. Every truck bringing waste to the landfill must stop on the scale to be weighed. The scale is accurate to within 20 pounds, Fiske explained.
Up at the site, reached by a long driveway, two AVRRDD employees — landfill gas technician Mark Nadeau and assistant technician Matt Eich, both of Berlin — showed off the District's new gas processing equipment that has been integrated with some existing equipment.
Fundamentally, the new landfill gas equipment, working with equipment that was already on site, is designed to dry, filter, clean, cool, and compress gas to meet GPT's exact requirements, Nadeau explained. The LFG is burned in an existing boiler to make steam to heat the mill and for process steam.
A vacuum pump system collects the gas out from over 50 wells installed in the two massive covered landfills that are atop a state-of-the-art double liner, along with the perforated pipe that encircles them, and sends it through an 18-inch pipe to a sump pump system in the first of several steps needed to remove or "knock out" water a.k.a. moisture, Nadeau explained. Other processes are used to filter out any unwanted particulates and to reduce sulpher to less than 1200 parts per million.
Adding a characteristic gas odor is one of the last steps, since methane is an odorless gas.
When asked how things are going, landfill manager Larry Mercier of Berlin, who has an office in the Mt. Carberry equipment garage, replied, "Very good; it's a tight ship with a good crew." Local employees of Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, Me., operate the landfill.
Carl Nelson of USDA Wildlife Services was also on site on Wednesday, firing screamer siren and other noisy pyrotechnics designed to disperse and discourage gulls.
Landfill methane becomes a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, when it rises into the atmosphere, according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency estimates that landfills account for 25 percent of all methane releases linked to human activity.
Before the landfill gas line was built and the new equipment installed, the methane gas was burned off — flared — to keep it out of the atmosphere but, nonetheless, wasting its energy potential.
"The District's board and I have not forgotten the very active and positive role that Gov. John Lynch and then-DRED Commissioner George Bald played in getting the paper mill reopened and facilitate going forward with the Burgess BioPower project in Berlin," Gauthier said at the tour's conclusion.
The District celebrated its 20-year anniversary on Oct. 14, 2011, and the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) presented the Commissioner's Teamwork Award to the District on Dec. 13, 2012.