Edinburg officials say they have embarked on “something new and exciting” by initiating a project that could bring the city additional income, selling large quantities of methane produced at the city’s landfill to interested companies.
The city hope to collect royalties from selling the gas, which has potential as an energy source, officials say.
“We have reached the point where our landfill is producing sufficient methane gas where I think we can sell that,” said Mayor Richard Garcia. “We are looking at contracting with some private organization to sell that gas, which will bring the city more income. We are excited about it. Everybody is always saying ‘go green’.”
The city has put out a Request For Proposals (RFP) looking to attract national and international entities who can recover methane from the landfill. Decomposition at the site produces large amounts of the gas, and the city is currently in talks to find an end-source.
Methane can be used for compressed natural gas or burned by smelters. It can also be used by electric companies as a cleaner alternative to power generators, according to city officials.
“Currently, we are burning it because that’s the quickest and cheapest way to control the methane without releasing it into the natural environment. But methane is like anything else, it can be cleaned up and then sold as end-source product,” said Ramiro Gomez, director of waste services. “What we did is put out an RFP requesting for all the companies that do this for a living to come back to the city and see how much methane we have, our purity and capacity and then tell us what they are willing to do for the city.”
The city has already conducted its first pre-bid meeting for the project. There are currently nine U.S. and Mexican firms who intend to submit proposals to the City Council at a date still to be determined, according to Gomez. The firm awarded the bid would then be allowed use of the city’s methane for a nominal fee.
“It can be lucrative. For example, a drilling company can go and drill a natural gas well and you get your royalties and things like that,” Gomez said. “It doesn’t make you rich but it’s another source of revenue, and it will be the same thing for the city. It will be an additional source of revenue for the city that can potentially pay for other programs and help the city with other projects.”
Exactly how much the city stands to gain from the project is still unknown, according to Gomez. Programs spurred by the selling of the gas will be determined once companies make their presentation to the council, which will have the final say so to determine the project’s direction, he said.
“At the same time we will meet with federal guidelines to put the methane as endsource, capturing it, and also it comes back as a renewable energy source so we can be less dependent on electricity or other providers rather than use a source that has a potential harm to the environment,” Gomez said.
The city owns about 1100 acres, which it has reserved as landfill space. The landfill itself is significantly smaller, encompassing slightly less than 300 acres, which is measured in “life years”, according to Gomez.
“The landfill has a footprint so big, so long and so wide so we can only fit so much trash in that area. We are limited to a space, which we measure by years. When some measure things by volume or how much stuff you can put in. We measure that in years of life,” he said.