Hall County may collect methane gas from landfills and sell it to local industries after a study showed the process could be profitable.
The project will cost $6.1 million but could earn the county a profit of $2 million to $5 million over 20 years after recouping costs, Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said.
Methane gas is cheaper than natural gas, although industries will need to make adjustments to use methane, Rearden said. But by using methane, local industries could save 15-20 percent.
“It’s a little complicated, but people are doing it,” he said.
Rearden presented the findings of the study at the county commission work session Monday.
In the study Hall County Public Works and Jacobs Engineering in Atlanta used money from a $760,000 federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to install methane gas monitoring wells in Allen Creek and Candler Road landfills.
“The inert material breaks down and forms this methane gas,” Rearden said in an interview.
As the landfill deteriorates and seeps methane, the gas can be collected and sold as energy.
Since February, county officials and engineers have studied the gas seeping from Allen Creek and Candler Road landfills.
Allen Creek’s landfill is a closed 60-acre site that could produce methane gas for about 20 years. Candler Road is an active 94-acre landfill with increasing gas production.
Other options officials and engineers studied included converting the gas into electricity and using it or selling it to energy companies.
That option would cost $6.6 million for materials for gas collection and a gas generator. Over time, the project would lose $400,000 to $1 million without private partnership.
“Rate of return is not sufficiently profitable to attract private developers, even with tax credits,” Rearden said.
The methane could also be flared off to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon credits from the reduction can be sold to cover another project that produces greenhouse gas. The carbon credits would expire in 10 years and would generate a loss of $1.8 million, Rearden said.
Commissioner Craig Lutz said the plan to use the methane gas as a natural gas alternative looked like a good idea, but he questioned if there was really a market for methane gas energy.
“Really, that looks like obviously the logical way to go. We just have to know if there’s a demand out there for the gas,” he said.
The revenues projected in the study did not include grant assistance, Rearden said. But he believes there are grants to be had, which would increase the net gain, he added.
“I feel pretty confident there’s grants out there,” he said.
Officials from Hall County Public Works will meet with Hall County Chamber of Commerce representatives to approach local industries.