County to sell methane to Army

Five-mile pipeline to carry landfill gas to expanded Fort Meade

October 04, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

Anne Arundel County will sell methane gas produced at its landfill to Fort Meade as a new energy source to serve a massive expansion at the Army post, officials announced yesterday.

County Executive Janet S. Owens and Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, commander of the West County installation, signed a memorandum of understanding at the Millersville Landfill that opens formal discussions over the next 12 months on how much methane the facility can produce, how much the county would charge for it, and how it would get transported to the sprawling post.

McCreedy estimated that the county's price for methane would be cheaper than a utility company's. A contract would not go into effect until construction of a pipeline between Fort Meade and the landfill -- which are about 5 miles apart -- was completed.

This dedicated energy source could provide power for one or more of Fort Meade's new tenants, such as the 4,000-employee Defense Information Systems Agency, arriving as part of the base closure and realignment process, also known as BRAC. One possible use is to supplement natural gas for steam generation.

This tentative partnership also comes as Fort Meade's lead tenant, the National Security Agency, is on the verge of exceeding its power supply, The Sun reported in August. The lack of power threatens the spy agency's abilities to keep its operations going.

McCreedy called the memorandum of understanding "a rare win-win-win." He said the Army fort would secure a reliable source of energy to meet future demands; the county would no longer have to flare off the methane gas; and the environment would stand to benefit from a decrease of greenhouse gases.

McCreedy's predecessors had explored the idea of purchasing methane from the county. McCreedy said the demands being placed on the military to prepare in the next five years for an influx of thousands of workers made the hunt for new energy sources a priority.

County officials estimate that 100,000 tons of trash is deposited at the 564-acre Millersville Landfill each year. It holds about 12 million cubic yards of garbage and generates tens of thousands of cubic feet of methane each day.

Now, the county uses wells and pipes to collect the gas, which is naturally produced by the decomposing of the garbage, then burns it off.

Owens noted that the level of methane will increase significantly over the next two decades.

"The more gas we can generate, the more the fort can buy," she said.

Fort Meade has a capped landfill at the southeast corner of the Army post, and military planners are considering building one or more golf courses there.

Army officials several years ago discovered a capped trash dump on post near Manor View Elementary. McCreedy said neither of those facilities is large enough to generate an economically viable amount of methane

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