Measured gas emissions from four landfills in South Africa and some implications for landfill design and methane recovery in semi-arid climates

Andy Fourie, J.W. Morris

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    The magnitude of annual global emissions of methane from municipal solid waste landfills without landfill gas control systems implies that these landfills are significant contributors to the atmospheric load of greenhouse gases. There have been a number of field studies undertaken internationally to measure actual fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide from landfills, with a view to corroborating modelled predictions of the contribution of landfills to the global greenhouse gas budget. The vast majority of these Studies have been undertaken in more temperate climates and in developed countries. This paper reports a study of landfill gas emissions from four large landfills located in the semi-arid interior Of South Africa. A static accumulation chamber was used and measurements were made at each site over a period of two to three days. The results were analysed by three different methods, all of them leading to the same general conclusion that landfill gas emission rates were lower than expected. A common conclusion based on results from all four sites was that capping of landfills in semi-arid climates with low permeability covers would probably significantly retard the already low rate of waste degradation and thus gas generation. While this may be regarded as advantageous in the short term, it cannot be relied upon in perpetuity as clayey landfill covers will inevitably desiccate and crack in a semi-arid environment. In addition, reasonable after-care periods for such landfills are likely to extend well beyond the currently stipulated 30-year period, and efforts to encourage energy recovery from landfills may be hampered because gas generation rates decrease as the waste dries Out under conditions of minimal recharge from precipitation. A landfill cover that allows small amounts of percolation of rainfall into the waste may therefore in fact be beneficial in semi-arid climates, although care would need to be taken to carefully regulate this infiltration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)440-453
    JournalWaste Management & Research
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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