Oak Grove Power Producers , LLC, at the Oak Grove Landfill near Arcadia, turns bad smells into electricity.

Oak Grove Power Producers , LLC, at the Oak Grove Landfill near Arcadia, turns bad smells into electricity.

Waste Corporation of Kansas, the landfill owner, partnered with Enerdyne Power Systems, Inc., Matthews, N.C., to build the 1.6 megawatt power plant that is fueled by landfill gas.

“I’m all about green energy, and this is a green concept,” said Rick Chapman, Enerdyne Midwest regional manager, during one of his regular visits to the Arcadia site. “This is a great thing.”

He explained that, as trash is added to the landfill site, anaerobic organisms feed on it and cause it to decompose, producing gas.

“Just imagine a little bug down there eating,” Chapman said. “If he’s eating beans, he’s going to get gas.”

State regulations require that this gas has to be disposed of, and Chapman said that the traditional way is to use a candlestick flare and burn it off.

“That’s something we try to do as little as possible,” he said. “By using the gas to run the generator, rather than burning it off, we create less emissions and we create electricity.”

The first step is to drill collection wells into the hill, which is trash that has been covered over with dirt.

“We say that it all starts at the hill,” Chapman said.

Pipe lines extract the gas, which is usually about half methane and carbon dioxide, plus various contaminants. From there it must undergo various procedures before being sent to the generator.

“Landfill gas is nasty stuff,” Chapman said. “There’s moisture, water, in the gas, and we have to knock that out. Then it goes to a blower which compresses the gas and it heats up. Then it goes to the fin fan which acts like a radiator and brings the gas back down to the ambient temperature. After that, it goes to a chiller which cools it down even more and shrinks the gas so that more moisture drops out. Then it goes to the separator.”

Finally, after all that, the gas is ready to be piped to the engine.

“The gas has to be dry to burn, and cool gas burns better than hot gas,” Chapman explained.

The 20-cylinder engine turns a 1.64 megawatt generator, and about 39 megawatts of electricity is produced each day. Chapman said this is enough to power around 1,000 average homes.

“The electricity we produce here is purchased by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities,” Chapman said. “Some folks in Arma and Arcadia will probably benefit from it.”
He said that at some other Enerdyne plants the gas is routed to specific sites.

“At a plant in Oklahoma the gas goes to a brick plant that’s a neighbor of the power plant and it powers one of the kilns,” Chapman said. “At a plant in North Carolina, the gas is piped two miles to fuel a boiler at a hospital.”

He explained that, after it is processed, the landfill gas is very similar to the  natural gas used to heat houses, just not as clean. However, the nastier landfill gas works well as a fuel and has one big advantage.

Natural gas is not a renewable resource, while human beings are probably going to continue producing trash for the foreseeable future.

“This is a win-win situation for everybody, Mother Nature most of all,” Chapman said.