Juniper Ridge Landfill seen from Bennoch Road in Alton. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A Pennsylvania company is working to build a facility that would turn the methane released by decomposing trash at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town into pipeline-quality natural gas.

The company, Archaea Energy, hopes to refine the methane that’s produced at the landfill and turn it into renewable natural gas that the company would then release into local pipelines. The company has also floated using the gas as a fuel source for trucks and buses.

Casella Waste Systems, the company that operates the state-owned landfill, currently uses a flare system that burns off the methane it collects from the decomposition of organic waste at the landfill.

Over the last decade, Casella has made multiple attempts to find ways to reuse that methane. After two of those efforts fell through, Casella is now working with Archaea Energy on the latest attempt to reuse the gas.

Archaea applied for an air emission license from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2019, and the department approved it in 2020. This past summer, the company asked the department to modify the details of its license, extending the time frame during which construction could start.

Last week, Archaea asked another bureau at the Department of Environmental Protection for its approval to build the renewable natural gas facility at the landfill.

Before this effort, Casella worked from about 2008 to 2014 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.

If constructed, the equipment needed to produce the renewable natural gas would be located outdoors on two concrete slabs near the landfill’s current methane processing facility. The renewable natural gas generated would meet pipeline standards, according to the company’s application.

The company didn’t provide a timeline for the construction.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...