Crane Mountain tests technology to recover more methane gas

New technology to extract landfill gas will soon be tested at Saint John's Crane Mountain landfill.

New technology can help Saint John landfill generate more electricity sourced from decaying garbage

The Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission uses methane to power a generator that in turn produces power to the site for free. (CBC)

New technology to extract landfill gas will soon be tested at Saint John's Crane Mountain landfill.

The landfill already generates electricity using methane gas collected from wells drilled into decaying trash.

But the current setup has its challenges, said Marc MacLeod, general manager of the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission.

"Those wells flood with water, or leachate, that's what it's called once it touches the garbage," MacLeod said Thursday on Information Morning Saint John. "So if you have 20 feet of exposed well where you can suck out the gas, the majority of wells are filled with 10 feet of water.

"So instead of having that 20 feet of exposure in the garbage you only have 10. This technology is meant to pull that extra garbage out."

$300,000 in federal funding

SCG Industries, the company piloting the new system, received $300,000 in federal funding on Wednesday to develop and test the technology onsite at Crane Mountain.

It will act as a vacuum to extract more moisture than the current pumping system.

The environmental firm is investing approximately $80,000 and Fundy Region Solid Waste is contributing $50,000 toward the initiative.

"In simplest terms, they use a specialized hose they put into the well and they're able to suck into depths of over 100 feet. We don't have over 100 feet, we're a test site, but for some landfills that's the case," MacLeod said.

It'll increase our production by 50 per cent.- Marc MacLeod, Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission general manager

"It'll increase our production by 50 per cent."

The Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission uses methane from the landfill to power a generating unit that in turn produces power to the site for free.

Excess sold to grid

Whatever is left over is sold to the electricity grid, which is usually enough to power approximately 200 homes.

"If this technology comes in and improves us 30-40 per cent, we're talking [upwards of] an extra $150,000 for the landfill for no investment from us," said MacLeod.

"If we're getting back $100,000 a year, for the next 20 years, we'll have that payback we're looking for. That ultimately goes to the bottom line and to the taxpayers."

MacLeod estimates it will be a year before water can be extracted from the landfill's wells using the new technology.

If it works, SCG Industries expects to sell the product to other landfills.

In 2010, the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission, which serves the Greater Saint John area, became the first working landfill in Atlantic Canada to supply green energy to the energy grid.

With files from Information Morning Saint John