World's largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant on line

By Anna Austin
Waste Management and Linde North America have commissioned what they say is the world's largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant at the Altamont Landfill near Livermore, Calif., producing enough fuel to power about 300 Waste Management waste and recycling collection vehicles.

The $15.5 million project received contributions from four state agencies-the Integrated Waste Management Board, the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The project is the first of its kind for Linde, according to Steve Eckhardt, head of alternative energy business development. He said since commissioning of the plant, which began in September, production has been ramped up to full capacity-about 13,000 gallons per day.

In a simplified description, trapped landfill gas is sent into a purification system to create a high-quality biomethane stream, which is then introduced to a liquefier. "It's sent through a heat exchanger and passed against a cold mixed refrigerant, and that warm biomethane is turned into liquid natural gas," Eckhardt said. "It's sent right into storage tanks at the site, which are basically giant thermos bottles that keep the product cold."

A tractor trailer picks up the fuel and transports it to Waste Management refueling sites about once a day, Eckhardt said. The plant typically requires two people to operate, but it can run unattended and be operated remotely so personnel are not constantly required on-site.

"We're really excited about this plant's progress," Eckhardt said. "The commissioning phase went relatively well where we were able to get liquid natural gas produced in a timely fashion-we came on line without any major problems and that's not easy to do with first-of-a-kind projects."

Eckhardt says Linde will likely be involved in similar projects relatively soon. "We're very excited, being the largest one in the world," he said. "Today, conventional natural gas is used in many different types of fuels. What's exciting here is that we're using biogas, the lowest carbon fuel out there per the California Air Resources Board, to fuel a fleet of vehicles that already exists-it's a great bang for a buck, a more environmentally friendly fuel and it's produced domestically."