Waste Management Inc. on Friday trumpeted the results of a pilot project to turn landfill gas into diesel fuel while celebrating the site’s removal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list.
The dual celebration drew a host of city, county and state leaders to the East Oak Landfill, which was placed on the feds’ cleanup list in 1992 because contaminants such as benzene and vinyl chloride were found in ground water.
Carl Edlund, director of EPA’s Superfund division, said the east Oklahoma City site is the 375th one to be removed from the Superfund list. It is the seventh of 14 Oklahoma sites to be cleaned up.
Edlund praised Waste Management for its innovative approach to use the available energy at the site.
“This represents a new level that we want others to try,” he said.
Edlund presented company official with a certification of appreciation he called a “green-ovation award.”
Pete Schultze, Waste Management’s senior district manager, credited state and federal regulators with helping the company achieve success with natural gas collection technology first pitched to it about a decade ago.
“It is a prime example of what can happen when all of these entities work together,” he said.
Schultze said Waste Management approached other states about the gas-to-liquids pilot project, but only Oklahoma regulators were willing to proceed with it. The state even provided grant money to get the project started.
He said the company learned to use the Fischer-Tropsch process developed during World War II to convert methane from decaying waste into clean-burning diesel and high-grade wax that can be used in cosmetics or lubricants. The wax also can be distilled into other petroleum products.
Schultze said 120 wells have been drilled into the 105-acre landfill to access the gas, which is moved to the surface with a vacuum. The wells generally produce their most gas in the first two years, but the flow can continue for up to 30 years.
He said it is difficult to estimate how much diesel and wax the plant will produce now that the pilot project is over, but the output of each product can be adjusted as the market dictates.
Schultze also said he is optimistic the technology can be used at other Waste Management facilities.
“I think it’s something we can apply in other areas,” he said.