News | 8 June 2022
Share on social

Landfill gas capture deal saving money and the planet

More than five million cubic metres of potentially harmful methane gas will be captured and turned into energy each year following the installation of an innovative biogas system at Wellington’s Southern Landfill site.

Southern Landfill's power station site

Wellington City Council is igniting the fire on its journey toward a more sustainable future, partnering with LMS Energy (LMS) to reduce methane emissions from the landfill site.


LMS took over the biogas operations at Southern Landfill late last year and are converting the biogas into renewable energy, which is injected into the local electricity network to power local homes and businesses.


The long-term partnership with LMS will see significant investment in a new biogas capture system and the installation of a state-of-the-art biogas flare, which cleanly combusts the methane which is released from landfill sites during the process of organic materials decomposing.


This substantial investment will reduce the methane emissions released from the site and supports Te Atakura – First to Zero, Council’s commitment to being a Zero Carbon Capital by 2050, and the transition to a low carbon Aotearoa New Zealand.


Mayor Andy Foster says the new partnership with LMS is another demonstration that Wellington City Council is taking big steps towards reducing its carbon footprint.


“This new biogas system is part of Council’s commitment to our country’s net zero by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions target under the Government’s recently released Emissions Reduction Plan. It will also help New Zealand meet its target of a 100 percent renewable electricity system by 2035.


“Landfills are responsible for about 74 percent of the City Council’s emissions and currently costs the city up to $3 million in carbon credits, paid for through landfill and rubbish collection charges. So this deal is helping save the planet while saving money.


“It is a win-win – we are not only reducing the financial cost to ratepayers of our carbon liability under the Emissions Trading Scheme but also improving the planet for future generations.”


Waste Operations Manager Stefan Borowy says methane destruction at landfills is an important climate strategy.


“This highly potent greenhouse gas – which is 34 times more damaging than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere – is either flared or used as fuel in engines to produce renewable electricity. Without this, the methane would be released into the atmosphere.”


LMS General Manager Matthew Falzon says since acquiring the existing biogas project at the landfill, LMS has significantly invested in infrastructure upgrades which have resulted in the biogas electricity generator consistently running at full capacity.


“The generator ran at a 99.5 per cent capacity in May. This means less methane emissions from the site and more renewable electricity produced for the local community.


“In just five months, we have generated 3,400 megawatt hours of electricity by combusting approximately 1.6 million cubic metres of landfill biogas. Annually, this is equivalent to powering around 1,233 Wellington homes annually or growing approximately one million trees for ten years or taking more than 35,000 New Zealand cars off the road.


“We are excited by this partnership with Council, and we look forward to working with them to deliver improved waste management and environmental outcomes for the community.”


In the coming months, LMS will install an industry-leading biogas flare, which has been engineered and manufactured in-house by LMS. The flare will further improve methane destruction from the landfill as it will destroy surplus methane that is not utilised in the power generation process and can operate when the generator is down for maintenance.


LMS has a 25-year licence to occupy with exclusive rights to the gas extracted from the landfill. Benefiting Council as the more landfill gas they capture and destroy, the less Council pays for emissions as it doesn’t need to purchase as many carbon units to surrender to Central Government.