From: David Tewes, Victoria Advocate
Published February 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Victoria, Texas, Considers Getting into Methane Gas Mining Business

VICTORIA, Tex. — The city of Victoria is looking into the possibility of mining methane gas from the landfill near Bloomington and selling it, which could net a profit for taxpayers and help protect the atmosphere.


Jerry James, the city's director of Environmental Services, said two companies have already investigated whether the current and future volumes of garbage in Victoria's landfill would be enough to make mining the gas feasible.


"According to their evaluations, we're a big enough landfill to where this would be workable," he said.


James said he's currently preparing specifications that will be released to the companies interested in bidding on the proposal and setting up a plant to package the gas for shipping.


He said it's still too early yet to say how much money such a system would produce for Victoria, but the city of Arlington is selling its methane gas and making about $70,000 a year.


The methane occurs as garbage deposited in the landfill deteriorates and decomposes. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that municipal landfills are the largest source of human-related emissions of methane gas in the United States.


If the gas is allowed to escape into the air, it could contribute to smog and global climate changes. But the gas at the Victoria landfill is captured through a series of underground pipes and burned so the methane doesn't go into the air.


James said Victoria's system could be converted to capture the gas so it could be used on site or transported and sold. Uses include everything from burning it to create electricity to selling it as an alternative to natural gas and coal.


Finance Director Gilbert P. Reyna Jr. said the city looked at the possibility of mining and selling the gas in the 1990s.


"There wasn't enough volume," he said. "But now we're 10 years down the road. You always want to explore the possibilities."


Reyna said the money produced by the sale of methane would ideally be spent on the city's solid waste operation. He said it could be used to buy new garbage trucks, to purchase more landfill space or to pay for fuel.


Council Member Lewis Neitsch said he thinks the city should mine the gas if the operation will be cost efficient.


But he said he'd like to see any profit spent on the city's brush collection site at the Victoria Regional Airport. He said it needs to be moved from the property owned by the county and onto a permanent site owned by the city. Then, he said, the city needs to get serious about converting the brush to mulch and compost.


"Personally I'd like to see the brush site off the airport property and somewhere where it can stay 100 years," Neitsch said. "I'd like to see us move that thing somewhere where it will be under our control."


To see more of Victoria Advocate, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thevictoriaadvocate.com. (c) 2005, Victoria Advocate. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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