Waste Management of Illinois announced Thursday it will soon begin construction of a new plant at the Milam landfill in Fairmont City that will generate natural gas.
Construction of the $18.5 million Milam Renewable Natural Gas Facility will start before the end of this year. Waste Management expects to begin delivering gas to a pipeline in late summer 2014. The project is partially funded by a $2.3 million grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Lisa Disbrow, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, said four to six new jobs would be created by the plant.
This project is being touted at the first plant of its kind in the state. The processed, renewable natural gas that will be produced by the plant will be injected into the pipelines of Ameren Illinois for withdrawal at other locations.
Like wind and solar, landfill gas is a renewable source of energy endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an alternative to fossil fuels. It's produced as waste naturally decomposes inside the landfill. Once captured, the gas is piped to a processing facility where it is filtered, decompressed and then used to power engines and turbines.
Paul Pabor, vice president of renewable energy for Waste Management, said the Milam landfill is the most recent of Waste Management's 138 natural gas sites where expansion is underway. Waste Management of Illinois currently operates more than 100 natural gas-powered vehicles, and gas generated from this facility will be used to fuel these vehicles.
"We've got almost 3,000 of these now across the country, we've got about 100 in Illinois, replacing diesel with natural gas," Pabor said. "They run on almost zero particulate emissions, they cut greenhouse gases and they run more quietly. The amount of gas that we're going to produce in this renewable natural gas facility, we're going to have enough gas to fuel about 400 of these trucks every day, which is over 10 percent of our entire fleet, will be able to be run off of this power plant. Milam is our most recent effort in a very aggressive expansion period."
Ameren Illinois President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Mark said the utility provider is pleased that Waste Management is using "cutting edge" advancements to collect natural gas.
"We think it's a great project," Mark said. "We're excited about it."
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Direct Lisa Bonet said the project is a "win-win" for all involved because it creates a model for environmental sustainability by reducing vehicle emissions, greenhouse gases and creating a renewable source of fuel.
"As a major Illinois employer and service provider, Waste Management is demonstrating that good environmental practices are also good business," Bonet said.