Heavy machinery moves trash atop Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town in this 2010 photo. Credit: John Clarke Russ

A young Pennsylvania company hopes to build a facility that would convert the methane generated at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town into a fuel that can power trucks and buses.

The company that operates the state-owned landfill, Casella Waste Systems, uses a flare to burn off the methane it collects from the decomposition of organic waste but has made multiple efforts over the past decade to reuse that methane for another purpose. After two of those efforts fell through, Casella is now working with the Pennsylvania company, Archaea Energy, to reuse the gas.

Archaea Energy hopes to refine the methane that’s produced at the landfill so it can be used to power some vehicles, according to Don Meagher, Casella’s manager of planning and development. In exchange, Casella would receive a portion of the revenue when that fuel is sold to filling stations.

Archaea is now seeking an air emission license from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The company’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment. An expected timeline for the project was not available.

Founded in 2018, Archaea grew out of a company that offers landfilling and waste hauling in the Pittsburgh area, according to its website.

It hopes to refine the methane from the Old Town landfill into a pure form that the federal government has labeled “renewable natural gas.” That fuel can be used interchangeably with conventional natural gas for various purposes including transportation fuel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

This is Casella’s third push to dispose of the methane generated at the Old Town landfill in a cleaner manner, according to Meagher.

From about 2008 to 2014, the company worked to sell the methane to the University of Maine to be burned in its steam plant, but the company eventually dropped the project because the price of natural gas had plummeted, meaning it would not be a viable investment.

It then considered setting up a power plant in Old Town that would burn the methane to produce electricity. In 2008, Casella started operating a similar power plant at the now-closed Pine Tree Landfill in Hampden. But based on the price it would fetch for the electricity, Casella ultimately determined that approach wouldn’t work at Juniper Ridge Landfill.

“Nonetheless, we said we are not going to give up on finding a beneficial use for the landfill gas,” Meagher said. “We continued to explore other possibilities and we came across, with some research, this technology that Archaea has.”