Editorial: Pipeline plan

Plans to build a methane gas plant and pipeline at the Hamm Landfill is a good fit for Lawrence’s environment and its economy.

The $16 million methane gas plant and pipeline are being built at the Hamm Landfill 5 miles north of Lawrence. The plant will strengthen and further diversify Lawrence’s growing list of renewable energy industries, which include Bowersock Hydropower’s hydroelectric dam and solar panel companies Cromwell Solar, Evergreen Energy and Good Energy Solutions.

The Hamm Landfill serves about 500,000 Kansas residents with Lawrence as the largest user base. Eighty gas wells will be installed at the landfill over the next eight weeks, and the processing plant is expected to be up and running in six to eight months.

In addition to producing a renewable fuel source, the plant will reduce greenhouse gases emitted when trash in the landfill breaks down. “We’re able to take the potential greenhouse gas footprint that’s associated with all paper products and anything that is organic and eliminate it,” Hamm’s Charlie Sedlock said.

Methane is the second-most prominent greenhouse gas and landfills account for about 20 percent of its emissions, according to the EPA. Methane emissions’ impact on climate change are more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, the EPA reports.

As part of the operation, extraction wells will capture the methane gas generated as the trash breaks down. The gas will be processed at the plant before being transported for distribution and eventual sale. Hamm has partnered with Renewable Power Producers of North Carolina to develop the wells, processing plant and six-mile pipeline connecting the plant to existing pipeline networks.

Once the plant is operating, the methane gas collected will be sold to various companies through a distributor. The facility will employ four full-time and four part-time employees. Sedlock said the cost to build and run the plant would not increase the collection costs that Hamm charges to municipalities, and that instead the revenue from the sale of the gas would go to offset those costs.

In Tuesday’s presidential debate, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton suggested, “some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” but that it would require innovation and investment in new technology. Lawrence may not be a superpower, but the community certainly is ahead of the curve on experimenting with and investing in renewable energy. The proposed methane gas plant will only serve to enhance that growing reputation for pursuing clean and sustainable energy resources.