Control of point-source low-volume methane emissions using methane biofiltration technology

University of Calgary (Hettiaratchi)

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Calgary, AB

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This project includes a market study to identify and evaluate the commercial feasibility of methane biofilter applications across several industry sectors and in various situations. The study includes a carbon offset evaluation to determine CO2e reductions of methane biofilter projects and the implementation of several full-scale pilot projects to demonstrate the technical feasibility of various methane biofilter configurations under field conditions. In addition, a cost-effective and robust performance monitoring protocol will be created to accurately measure the filters’ performance and the amount of methane reduced and kept out of the atmosphere.

Researchers will identify and count individual species in the microbial community inside each methane biofilter at industrial sites, optimizing and monitoring each filter’s performance for the particular conditions at each site.

Methane biofilters convert methane to carbon dioxide without producing other harmful by-products. Carbon dioxide is still emitted from the biofilters, but it is about 25 times less potent as a greenhouse gas than methane, reducing a facility’s carbon ‘footprint’ and GHG emissions.

While the traditional technologies for emission control may be economical at large-scale industrial operations producing a substantial volume of methane—such as a sour natural gas processing plant or a big municipal landfill—they are not economically feasible for low-volume point-source emissions. To control these hard-to-manage emissions, researchers are looking to nature, where a family of bacteria called methanotrophs (found in soil, compost and other environments) uses methane as an energy source and converts the gas to carbon dioxide.

Dr. Hettiaratchi has extensive experience in environmental engineering and science. His current research is in the areas of sustainable landfill technology, remediation of sites contaminated with complex hydrocarbons, GHG emission technology development, optimization of landfill construction and operation, and recycling of construction waste. Dr. Hettiaratchi is collaborating with Dr. Peter Dunfield, a biosciences professor, who has studied the behavior of methanotrophs in various environments.

ERA funded this project through the Biological GHG Management Program, administered by Alberta Innovates. Other project partners include NSEREC and MITAC.