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Green power from waste

February 19, 2004, 13:45 CET

Electricity and heat are increasingly being generated by Statoil in Norway with the aid of landfill gas, with methane – a contributor to the greenhouse effect – as the energy bearer.

Energikilden, a company owned 50-50 by Statoil and ETech Process AS, is responsible for this environment-friendly power solution.

The idea involves burning the methane which seeps from all Norwegian landfills to generate useful energy rather than being ignored or flared.

A generating plant based on a gas engine is currently operated by Energikilden in the industrial town of Porsgrunn, which lies south of Oslo.

Another facility comes on stream in late February at Nes local authority in Akershus county north of the capital, and a contract was recently signed with the city of Skien near Porsgrunn.

The latter covers the construction of a generating facility scheduled to come into operation during 2004.

Landfills contributed more than half the man-made methane released in Norway during 2002, and the greenhouse effect of this gas is about 20 times higher than for carbon dioxide.

A number of Norwegian local authorities have accordingly installed gas recovery equipment on their landfills to burn off the methane and thereby limit emissions to carbon dioxide.

“Generating energy from landfill gas is regarded as one of the cheapest ways in which Norway can curb climate change,” says Hanne Lekva, head of Statoil’s new energy unit.

“This solution also represents better resource utilisation. Instead of flaring the gas, it gets used to provide power and heat.”

Energikilden aims to generate about 50 million kilowatt-hours per year by the end of 2006, corresponding to the annual consumption of roughly 2,500 Norwegian households.

Meeting that target would require the construction of eight to 10 generating plants in coming years, at an investment totalling several tens of millions of kroner.

Ms Lekva emphasises that, although the amount of energy generated is modest, this represent a profitable and sustainable project.

It could qualify in future for “green” certificates, because the European Union defines landfill gas as a renewable energy source for electricity generation.

“The advantage of such projects is that they contribute to developing environmental technology and expertise which could help to solve bigger challenges in the longer term,” Ms Lekva says.

“Success in one area is very motivational, and encourages us to continue our development.”