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Thursday, 09 August 2012 12:31

Bioreactor Landfill of Ämmässuo – a paradigm to follow

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The Landfill Gas (LFG) recovery and utilization project of the Ämmässuo landfill won the National Energy Globe Award of Finland for 2012.

Ämmässuo landfill is the biggest disposal facility in the Nordic countries. It consists of two landfill sites, the old one, which is closed, and the new one, which is active. The old landfill site was receiving waste from 1987 until 2007, it occupies an area of 52 hectares and it contains about 10 million tonnes of waste. The new landfill site of Ämmässuo began to receive waste in 2007 and it has been designed to cover another 62 hectares.

Taking into consideration that every tonne of solid waste disposed can produce 100-200 m3 of LFG, the operators of the Ämmässuo landfill decided in 1996 to begin extracting the LFG generated in the landfill and to combust it in flares. In 2003, when the old landfill of Ämmässuo was close to end operation, the authorities began experimentally to operate a leachate recirculation system in the old part of the landfill. Their aim was to operate the landfill after its closure as a bioreactor landfill, increasing and making faster the overall LFG generation and simultaneously to decrease the period required for post-closure monitoring. Despite the difficulties that arose, the operation was successful and led to the operation of the new landfill of Ämmässuo as bioreactor, a fact that improved the quality and increased the amount of the LFG generated. What is more, a series of actions have led to the increase of the LFG recovery rate from 50 percent to 80 percent today, with 90 percent to be a feasible goal for the future. More specifically, in 2004 it began the LFG utilization in district heating, with the construction of a LFG drying and boosting station, as well as a transfer line, achieving a utilization degree of the LFG recovered equal to 50 %. In 2007 the pumping capacity was increased, a fact that further increased the LFG utilization degree to ~65%, whereas the same year began the planning of an electricity power plant.

It was not until 2008 that it was decided the construction of the electricity generation plant from LFG. The reasons that contributed to that decision were numerous, with the most important to be:

  • There were several studies claiming that the LFG production would maximize in 2010.
  • Electricity was preferred compared to heating because it can be used during the whole year and not only during the winter.
  • There was already a network to distribute the electricity generated.
  • The price of gas was considered low in order to further improve the quality of the LFG generated and then to add it to the national grid.
  • CO2- free electricity production is highly subvented in the EU.
  • According to the Government Program of Finland for 2007, electricity production from municipal solid waste would be subvented.
  • There was greater possibility for investment support.

In that way, the construction of the power plant began in 2009 and it completed in 2010. The plant started up its operation in May of the same year, increasing the utilization degree of the recovered LFG to 100%.

The total investment of the project was 15 million euro, from which the 3.4 million were provided by the Finish government. The maximum capacity of the power plant reaches 17 MW for electricity and 13 MW for heat. The electricity generated is directly fed into the national power grid, whereas the annual emissions saved by the power plant of Ämmässuo come up to 8,500 tons of COeq. 

Undoubtedly, Ämmässuo landfill is an excellent paradigm to follow for every landfill operator.



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