Docking landfill site in energy trial

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A former landfill site in Docking has been chosen to take part in a European-funded project to boost the amount of energy generated from gas at old sites and reduce landfill emissions across the country.

Docking, which closed its doors to the public in 2000, has been selected by the Environment Agency to take part in the ACUMEN project trialled at four other UK sites – including Strumpshaw in east Norfolk – and one in Poland.

Each of the project sites is being equipped with different technologies to use the gas from the landfills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The new systems will be continuously monitored for two years and the information used to identify viable systems for extracting gas economically from old sites where the accepted view is that gas flows are too low, and prove the business case for their wider take up.

Charles Wright, who heads up Norfolk County Council’s landfill management team said: “Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gasses – 21 times more powerful than CO2.

“Landfills generate methane for as long as they are breaking down waste. Speeding up the waste degradation process helps the restoration of landfills but this can also lead to an increase in the quantity of harmful methane emitted. A major part of our job is to manage this process to minimise these emissions and their impact on the environment.

“One of the best ways of doing this is to convert the gas into energy and we are currently generating about 3.5 mW of electricity from landfill gas at five of our larger sites in Norfolk. That’s the equivalent of running more than 1000 homes and it brings in an income of about £200,000 a year for the council which we use to offset the cost of managing old landfill sites.

“Docking and Strumpshaw are good examples of smaller, older landfills that have been closed for a very long time, where methane levels are lower and it’s more difficult to extract and utilise the gas. We have a long record of managing gas at these sites and this project will enable us to compare and evaluate the effect of different systems on the landfill sites and the effectiveness of the different methods of using the gas.

“The equipment that’s been installed for the ACUMEN projects are novel energy micro generation systems, and the first time they’ve been really put through their paces at landfills. We are very excited to be taking part in a project that could see a major shift in the way smaller older landfills are managed in the future.”

Geoff Baxter. of ACUMEN (Assessing, Capturing and Utilising Methane from Expired and Non-operational landfill) said “At Docking we have installed two Stirling engines which will take some of the gas that is currently being flared at the site.

“This will be the first time that this type of engine has been installed and used operationally to manage gas at a closed landfill site in the UK and the second time in Europe, and we feel confident that the lessons learnt will be applicable to other closed landfills around the UK.”

David Harrison, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment said: “Norfolk has a long standing reputation for leading the way with practical initiatives that challenge the accepted norm and bring about tangible environmental management improvements. This project is a good example of one of those.”

The project is being funded by the EU’s environmental LIFE programme - the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3954 projects, contributing approximately €3.1 billion to the protection of the environment.