Garbage Goodness: How the UAE is Turning Trash into Power
Generating electricity from garbage? You just know it’s a good idea. It’s like finding a great two-for-one offer at the store: we get rid of something that’s bad for the environment, and we get something good, like electricity to light our homes.
However, using waste to create power requires sophisticated technologies. There are waste-to-energy incinerators that use the garbage itself as a fuel. And, there are systems that collect the harmful greenhouse gases produced by landfills – primarily carbon dioxide and methane – and burn those gasses to generate electricity.
Dubai Municipality is using the latter technology. It has commissioned the region’s largest landfill gas capture system that also is the region’s first project to generate electricity from landfill gas. The project is qualified under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism as an emission-reduction project that can earn certified emission reduction credits (CERs). These saleable credits can be used by industrialized countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol program.
The project, which targets the reduction of methane gas (CH4) equivalent to approximately 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide, will generate 1 megawatt of electricity using a GE Jenbacher gas engine. This electricity will be used to power a high-efficiency flare that will clean-burn the collected greenhouse gases, thereby making a big reduction in the landfill’s environmental footprint.
This is the first Jenbacher engine to be deployed for a landfill gas application in the GCC region, and it’s no surprise that this engine was selected for the project. Ecomagination-certified, the Jenbacher is able to provide onsite power (i.e., they are much smaller than utility-scale gas turbines) to facilities such as hospitals or industrial installations such as the high-efficiency flare in this case.
Jenbacher engines can generate electricity ranging from 0.25 megawatts up to 3 megawatts, using either natural gas or a range of other gases, such as biogas, landfill gas, coal mine gas, sewage gas, and combustible industrial waste gases. In this way, the Jenbacher can turn what in the past might have been seen as just an environmentally harmful industrial waste byproduct into a useful fuel source.
The versatility of the engine’s design means that in addition to the electricity it produces, the thermal energy generated by the engine can be used for other purposes, such as heating water for local- or district-heating systems and steam production. As a result, the Jenbacher can generate heat, cooling and power, all at the same time.
With governments in the region actively working to reduce their impact on the environment and pursue more sustainable development, it’s clear that the versatile Jenbacher has a bright future in this part of the world.