City, Coast Guard ready to start methane project

November 14, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

In a deal that could benefit Baltimore's air quality and its bottom line, city officials said yesterday that they will soon capture methane gas from a landfill and sell it to the Coast Guard as a source of energy.

The 16,000 tons of methane generated by the Quarantine Road Landfill annually will be pumped to the Coast Guard Yard, which will use the gas to light and heat its 112-acre facility on Hawkins Point Road in Curtis Bay - reducing its reliance on traditional energy sources.

Several local governments across the country and in Maryland - including Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties - are looking at ways not only to reuse methane, which is a greenhouse gas, but also to turn what gas they collect into a revenue source.

"To take a landfill where we take our daily trash and to create energy and a resource that's going to help us long term is so significant," Mayor Sheila Dixon said at a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Coast Guard Yard attended by state and federal officials. "The city will benefit tremendously from this effort."

Under an agreement approved this year by the city Board of Estimates, the Coast Guard will pay the city $200,000 annually for up to 15 years for the gas. Meanwhile, the city will put up $2 million to build the gas collection unit - money that will be reimbursed by the Coast Guard.

Capt. Stephen C. Duca, commanding officer of the yard, has said he expects the project to be complete next fall. Duca said the arrangement has the added benefit of giving the yard an energy source if power is knocked out by a storm or terrorist attack.

"The entire Coast Guard community in Baltimore will have a base of operations from which to respond to natural and man-made disasters freed from the constraints of the power grid," Duca said in a statement.

Reusing the gas is equivalent to removing 33,000 cars from the road annually, city leaders said. The Quarantine Road landfill opened in 1985, holds about 10 million tons of waste and averages about 35,000 tons of new rubbish every month.

Once collected, the gas will be piped from the landfill to the yard. Ameresco Federal Solutions Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn. - which has a contract with the Coast Guard to improve its energy efficiency - will build a plant on the yard to turn the gas into power. City officials said they will accept bids to build the gas collection unit.

The arrangement allows the Coast Guard to meet federal requirements to find alternative sources of energy and helps the city meet requirements to collect and combust the gas.

Methane is produced in landfills as microorganisms feed on organic matter. Garbage landfills are the largest manmade source of methane emissions in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Anne Arundel County officials have been working for months on a plan to capture methane gas from the Millersville Landfill as an energy source for Fort Meade, but those talks reached an impasse this month.

"We're moving closer to that day when as Marylanders we might lead the nation - once again, as we did at the birth of the `Star-Spangled Banner' - in proclaiming our independence from foreign oil," said Gov. Martin O'Malley, who attended yesterday's ceremony.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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