BINYAMINA, Israel, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Israel's new black gold isn't oil but smelly, rotting trash.
The Talia landfill, in northeastern Israel near the Sea of Galilee, is moving to harness the natural gases released by decomposing garbage to produce energy for several of the surrounding kibbutzim.
Talia received 320,000 tons of waste in 1999, which produced 1,923 cubic meters of gas per hour, a report to the United Nations on the project proposal said. The report estimated this output could produce 6,249 kilowatts per hour of electricity.
The nearby Hagal landfill already has gas collection infrastructure in place, though the gas there is not used to create energy, the report said. If the plan goes forward, the two landfills' gas collection apparatuses will most likely be connected.
Eli Matz, the director of the Madei Taas sewage treatment and alternative energy company, said he couldn't provide specific updates on the December 2005 U.N. report, since the project is awaiting approval.
Talia is the latest in a series of Israeli landfills taking steps to collect gas emissions. The series also includes two projects by the U.S. company SCS Engineers: the Dudaim landfill near Be'er Sheva and the Tennim landfill near Rosh Pina.
As the establishment of landfill gas collection sites increases, it is becoming increasingly recognized as a source of renewable energy in Israel. An inter-ministry government team is examining the process more closely, the Ministry of National Infrastructures said on its Web site.
SCS said the Dudaim project was "particularly promising," because "the nearby polystyrene plant has steam boilers that could be retrofitted for landfill gas fuel."
The first Israeli landfill to use gas emissions was Kibbutz Evron, in the western Galilee, in April 2002.
"(The kibbutz members) decided it was the best solution for dealing with the gas," the landfill power plant's site manager, Moshe Greenberg, told United Press International in a telephone interview.
The landfill receives thousands of tons of garbage from all over the region. From the methane gas the kibbutz then collects from the decomposing trash, the on-site power station produces about 1,000 KW of electricity an hour.
This is enough to cover 80 percent of the kibbutz's residential and industrial energy needs, and it helps save the kibbutz more than $300,000 a year in electricity costs, Greenberg said.
The American company that designed the system, Golder Associates, estimated on its Web site that the landfill gas power plant is "expected to accommodate kibbutz needs for the next 15-20 years."
Evron is well on its way to fulfilling that expectation.
"Next year, we plan to double production," Greenberg said.
Fifty to 60 percent of the landfill's gas is methane, and carbon dioxide and nitrogen make up smaller portions. According to a report on the Evron power plant from Israeli science television Channel 8, methane is the principal ingredient in electricity production and is created when microorganisms break down the organic material in the trash.
At the Talia landfill, the gas would be collected by vertical gas wells, connected by airtight tubes and drilled directly into the landfill body, according to the Talia U.N. report. Adding a blower to the system would create a vacuum in the tubes, to draw the landfill gas into the system.
After the gas' composition is measured, most of it would be diverted to engines that would supply power to the national grid via the state-run Israel Electric Corp., the report said. The unusable remainder of the gas would be combusted.
Existing landfill gas collection systems in Israel use much simpler technology, the report said.
Besides saving money on electrical costs, the collection of landfill gas also boasts twin environmental benefits: the methane gas is almost completely clean-burning, and because it is collected and burned, it is not released into the atmosphere where it is the No. 1 contributor to the greenhouse effect.
However, organizers of the Talia project said the environmental benefits were even more tangible and immediate than that, the report said. They said there will be a noticeable reduction in general air pollution in the area, and that the quality of the ground water will improve.
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