Biogas from trash powers homes in Payatas

By Alexander Villafania

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – In the gravel slopes of the Payatas landfill, engineers are busy at work installing several yellow tubes in pre-determined locations in a place that was once called “land of promise.”

After almost a decade since it was closed down, the land that was once teeming with organic and non-biodegradeable trash is starting to show some promises as an alternative biogas power provider.

Payatas is the country's biggest installation of biogas collection facility in the Philippines. Under a partnership between the Quezon City government and energy development company Pangea Green Energy, the P200 million biogas project that started in 2008 could produce as much as 4,200 megawatts of power to benefit 3,500 families.

In 2010 alone, Payatas saved Quezon City at least P1.6 million in electricity bills and this is just from the small area that it services around Payatas. On a daily basis, it produces around 100 kilowatts of power that sustains the electricity needs of the Payatas facility and the Plantasahan ng Bayan (public ironing service).

The mountain of trash, which has been rehabiliated into a hybrid landfill, is pockmarked by at least 85 gas wells, each one drilled down to around 35 meters deep and collects biogas as a result of buried trash. The gas is separated from its water content and fed into heat exchangers that convert heat to electricity.

The amount of trash underneath Payatas could produce gas for years and plans are underway to connect the power sub-station of the biogas plant to the power grid of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

During a presentation in Payatas last July 3, Payatas Operations Group Head Jameel Jaymalin said that the potential for biogas use in cities is huge as it saves on power generation.

“There are a lot of good things that would come out of biogas, one of which is energy generation harnessed from biogas production. This will reduce air and water contamination as the gases are collected and used to produce electricity. This could also speed up the re-use of this dumping site and become an eco-park,” Jaymalin said.

Biogas production from landfills is already a major component of alternative power production in some countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom. Some biogas producers, such as Sweden, power up biogas engines of certain vehicles, thus reducing the need to fossil fuels.

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