Comparison of Field Measurements to Methane Emissions Models at Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Investigator: North Carolina State University

Start Date:
March 2022

Award Amount:

Landfills are the dominant disposal alternative for municipal solid waste (MSW) in the U.S. In 2018, U.S. landfills were estimated to emit 180 Tg (million metric tons) CO2 equivalents (CO2e), making landfills the third and fourth largest sources of anthropogenic methane in the U.S. and globally, respectively. With the exception of the California Landfill Methane Inventory Model (CALMIM), which models methane emissions directly, models estimate emissions by reducing methane production by the fraction of the methane that is collected and the fraction of uncollected methane that is oxidized in the landfill cover soil. This approach can lead to considerable error due to uncertainty in methane production, the time-varying collection efficiency and the fraction oxidized. In a 2016 paper, we showed that models [EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and California Air Resources Board (CARB)] overestimated measured emissions by a factor of 4 to 31 for a young landfill with no gas collection.

The overall objective of the proposed research is to quantitatively evaluate the relationship between measured and modeled methane emissions for at least 4 landfills. In the proposed work, we will extend the 2016 analysis from one young (<3 years old) landfill without gas collection to a set of at least 4 landfills that are more typical (i.e., waste of varying ages and gas collection installed).