Texas-based waste disposal company Waste Management plans to invest $30 million in renewable energy infrastructure in Louisville.
Waste Management will use the gas produced naturally during waste decomposition at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, 2673 Outer Loop, to fuel its vehicles and sell off the remainder.
“The energy recovered at the landfill will be used to power Waste Management’s compressed natural gas-powered collection trucks,” according to a statement from the company. “The facility, the first of its kind in the region, will provide enough energy to fuel 800 trucks — the equivalent of 12,000 homes — per day.”
Methane gas, carbon dioxide and other gases are natural byproducts of every landfill, and the gases are funneled through pipes and burned off to prevent a gas buildup. Waste Management will simply tap into the existing natural gas supply.
The company will build a facility on site that will separate the methane gas from the other gases. The methane will be piped into a gas line owned by Texas Gas, Andy Reynolds, the public sector representative for Waste Management in Louisville, told Insider Louisville.
More than 50 percent of the gas collected is methane gas, Reynolds said. A small amount of the methane will be used to fuel Waste Management’s 80 local trucks, and the rest will be sold off to Texas Gas for the going natural gas rate.
“The remaining 90 percent of the energy that is generated will go to whoever the purchasers are from Texas Gas,” he said, so in theory, it could be used to power homes locally.
The non-methane gases will still be burned off by a flare.
Only one other Waste Management facility — a small landfill in Milan, Ill. — uses the technology that the company plans to install at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, Reynolds said, adding that Louisville will act as a template for a planned rollout of the technology nationwide.
Waste Management chose Louisville because the company both owns the property and runs the facility at Outer Loop.
“It’s also working in connection with Mayor Fischer and his strategic goals making sure Louisville is on the cutting edge of green technology,” he said. IL has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment. In 2013, Fischer established the city’s first Office of Sustainability and released a sustainability plan to protect the environment.
Although it has the same mission and outcomes as a biodigester, Reynolds said the technology that Waste Management is using is “very different.”
For one, he said, Waste Management is cleaning up and repurposing gas that is already there. The new technology also won’t change the amount of truck traffic coming into or leaving the facility, and the infrastructure Waste Management plans to install is smaller, Reynolds said.
“The biodigester is trying to recreate what the landfill already does,” he said.
Last year, an out-of-town company canceled plans to build a biodigester in West Louisville following substantial backlash from the community. Louisville Metro Council has since passed regulations that limit where biodigesters can be built.
Waste Management is working to secure the proper permitting and move through the regulatory process. The regulatory agencies that monitor the landfill are the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Federal Aviation Administration and Jefferson County Waste Management District.
Reynolds said Waste Management hopes to start collecting the natural gas for reuse by end of this year.
The company has run the 782-acre Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility for more than 45 years and employs 27 people there. The landfill processes 787,700 tons of waste each year, according to Waste Management, and has an estimated remaining life of 48 years.
The new technology will extend the facility’s estimated life, Reynolds said, but it is unclear by exactly how long. No matter what, the life of the landfill will be prolonged at least 20 years after it stops accepting refuse because waste produces gas for roughly two decades after it reached the landfill.
“This is something that we are really excited about. This is something that is entirely nonintrusive,” he said. “It doesn’t require behavior changes on anyone’s part, but it still provides better air quality.”