Landfill gas in Africa – Why is it not reaching its potential?

 

Dumpsites may also have been on fire, either spontaneously from the heat generated from the decomposition of the waste, or by humans living on or near the dumpsite. These fires will quickly burn the methane which is present, removing the possibility to use it for the generation of electricity. 

Once the landfill site is correctly engineered, gas recovery systems are in place one must then look to convert the gas to renewable electricity. Whilst the African continent suffers from a great power deficit, often the most successful power generation projects are captive power plants or independent power producers (IPP). There may be legislation challenges such as how to sell the electricity to the grid. Can an IPP legally sell into the local power distribution network? There is nothing to stop a landfill gas generator being used for a local captive power project either or via a private wire. However the industrial facility that is using the energy must be located relatively close to the dumpsite and must also be confident that they will receive the fuel consistently for the length of time required to pay back their investment. The generator costs alone are often in excess of  US$500,000. The generator must be of the correct quality for this type of project, such as GE’s Jenbacher landfill gas engine and must be backed up by a reliable service partner that understands the challenges of converting power from a gas with contaminants that are found in landfill gas, such as sulphur, moisture and siloxanes. 

If the project is being developed by local authorities the challenge of whether the investor will be paid for the capital and required operational costs of the project is an important consideration on whether to take the project forwards.  

That said there are a number of landfill gas power generation projects that have been successfully developed across the African continent.  The Fez landfill site in Morocco has developed a successful award winning project. Acknowledged in late 2015 at the Pollutec Maroc event the company was presented with an outstanding achievement award for this 1MW project outside Fez. In South Africa the Bisasar Road project with the municipality in Durban has also been successfully generating power for a number of years.

There may be a number of things that need to be addressed before one can successfully develop a landfill gas to power project. It requires a degree of central planning, ideally with the employees of the local municipality supported by international consultants to successful develop the scheme. It must be paid for, either by local taxes, through the potential sale of power or by international carbon avoidance subsidies. It also requires the installation of equipment which is fit for purpose and is backed up by reliable local service support. 

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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