Waste Management launches $35 million RNG facility in Springdale

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,701 views 

The Eco Vista renewable natural gas (RNG) facility in Springdale opened May 24.

Texas-based Waste Management (WM) has opened a $35 million renewable natural gas (RNG) facility at the company’s sprawling Eco Vista landfill south of Arbor Acres Avenue in Springdale.

According to a WM news release, the landfill gas-to-energy facility beneficially utilizes the biogas generated when organic material decomposes in a landfill.

RNG is a term used to describe biogas that has been upgraded to replace fossil natural gas. Beginning with the permitting process, it took about two years to bring the RNG facility online at Evo Vista. The facility’s first day up and running was May 24.

“Those are always exciting moments in my world when I get the text message that says we’re flowing gas into the pipe,” said Randy Beck, who heads up WM’s renewable energy group.

The Eco Vista facility spans 14,430 square feet. It is expected to recover and distribute approximately 750,000 metric million British thermal units (mmBtu) per year of RNG, which could serve the equivalent of 25,000 households annually or 650 heavy-duty vehicles. The diesel gallon equivalent is one mmBtu of gas equals 6.81 gallons of diesel.

WM will allocate a portion of the RNG for its U.S. fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

“The size of that little facility can provide enough gas to power a town,” Beck said. “I think that’s pretty amazing.”

The RNG facility at Eco Vista processes the increasing volumes of biogas collected from the landfill — generated during the decomposition of organic material — into pipeline-quality gas to be delivered to Energy Transfer’s Enable Gas Transmission pipeline system.

“Enable Pipeline was motivated and fantastic to work with,” Beck said. “All the dominoes fell in the right direction, between the state and the pipeline company, to move this project expeditiously. Northwest Arkansas is one of the country’s fastest-growing areas and is a friendly state to do business. That allows us to expedite our permitting and construction processes.

“Working with those folks has been fantastic, and I’m glad this one is finally online.”

Specifically, here’s how the process works to, for example, fuel a heavy-duty vehicle:

  • Waste is deposited at the landfill and covered.
  • Biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) is generated as organic waste decomposes.
  • Biogas is collected and routed to the processing facility.
  • Biogas is processed to create a pipeline-quality biomethane product (RNG).
  • RNG is supplied to transmission systems, distribution systems and fueling stations.
  • Truck fleet is fueled with CNG or RNG.

WM officials said using RNG is estimated to avoid up to approximately 40,000 tons per year of greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Beck said construction of the facility created over 125 jobs, and it will initially employ four people for operations who are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

WM plans about 20 additional RNG projects and intends to spend about $1.2 billion on renewable energy projects between 2022 and 2026.

“My job is all about finding beneficial uses of landfill gas,” Beck said. “My goal is to find beneficial uses for 65% of the gas we produce at our landfills in the U.S. and Canada. By 2030, I’d like for that to be 90%.”

The Eco Vista facility is WM’s sixth RNG facility and the first in Arkansas. In addition to Eco Vista, WM owns Arkansas landfills in Danville, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff. Beck said they are “on the radar” for possible RNG facilities, but there aren’t any immediate plans to do so.

Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber, hopes WM’s investment will encourage similar solutions from other waste management providers.

Eco Vista’s RNG Plant generates an environmental credit called a D-3 Renewable Identification Number (RIN), which is monetized through sales to U.S. refiners. The EPA recognizes RNG as an important cellulosic biofuel.

Eco Vista is a regional facility approximately five miles west of Interstate 49. It employs about 25 people and provides disposal services for communities, businesses and industries in Washington, Benton, Madison, Carroll, Sebastian and Crawford counties. The landfill manages an average of 2,800 tons of non-hazardous waste daily.

The facility, overseen by district manager Blake Small, opened in 1979, and WM assumed ownership in 2000. It spans 609 acres, but the permitted acreage — the actual total allowed disposal area — is 207 acres.

Landfill employees also actively manage 298 acres for a bluebird conservation project. For more than 20 years, WM has partnered with Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to promote sustainability, wildlife preservation, biodiversity and environmental education at the company’s WHC-certified sites.

The landfill hosts many school tours and partners with the Rollins Elementary School of Innovation in Springdale.