Climate Co-benefits of Energy Recovery from Landfill Gas in Developing Asian Cities: A Case Study in Bangkok

In Waste Management & Research
Volume (Issue): DOI: 10.1177/0734242X13492004
Peer-reviewed Article

Landfilling is the most common and cost-effective waste disposal method, and it is widely applied throughout the world. In developing countries in Asia there is currently a trend towards constructing sanitary landfills with gas recovery systems, not only as a solution to the waste problem and the associated local environmental pollution, but also to generate revenues through carbon markets and from the sale of electricity. This article presents a quantitative assessment of climate co-benefits from landfill gas (LFG) to energy projects, based on the case of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Thailand. Life cycle assessment was used for estimating net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, considering the whole lifespan of the landfill. The assessment found that the total GHG mitigation of the Bangkok project would be 471,763 tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalents (eq) over its 10-year LFG recovery period. This amount is equivalent to only 12% of the methane (CH4) generated over the whole lifespan of the landfill. An alternative scenario was devised to analyse possible improvement options for GHG mitigation through LFG-to-energy recovery projects. This scenario assumes that LFG recovery would commence in the second year of landfill operation and gas extraction continues throughout the 20- year peak production period. In this scenario, GHG mitigation potential amounted to 1,639,450 tCO2-eq during the 20-year project period, which is equivalent to 43% of the CH4 generated throughout the life cycle. The results indicate that with careful planning, there is a high potential for improving the efficiency of existing LFG recovery projects which would enhance climate co-benefits, as well as economic benefits. However, the study also shows that even improved gas recovery systems have fairly low recovery rates and, in consequence, that emissions of GHG from such landfills sites are still considerable.