- THE MAGAZINE
Jenkins Brick Co. is no stranger to using landfill gas (LFG) as an alternative to natural gas-back in 1998, the company retrofitted the kiln at its Montgomery, Ala., plant to incorporate LFG. That project proved so successful that Jenkins Brick recently sited a new plant near a landfill specifically so it could take advantage of the readily available supply of LFG.
Located in Moody, Ala., the new 220,000-square-foot plant (a separate 30,000-square-foot grinding plant brings the total site to 250,000 square feet) is designed to produce 136 million brick per year. With a total investment of $56 million, Jenkins Brick partnered with Veolia Environmental Services (the owner of the landfill providing the gas) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) to create a unique landfill gas energy project.
Finding the SiteAccording to Mike Jenkins IV, chief executive officer of Jenkins Brick, the company evaluated approximately 384 landfills in eight states before settling on the Veolia landfill near Moody. The site was eventually selected for a number of logistical reasons, including its proximity to Jenkins Brick's existing market, the Norfolk Southern Railway Co., Interstate 20, and excellent raw materials.
In addition, while it might seem strange to term a landfill attractive, this one is-at least from a production standpoint. "The landfill itself is productive and will continue to grow in terms of the gas it produces through the years," says Jenkins. "Engineers estimate that in 12-15 years, the landfill supply will increase and approach 90-95% of our needs." The plant is currently running at 40-45% landfill gas, and Jenkins expects that number to increase as the company gets more familiar with the system and makes operating improvements.
St. Clair County, Ala., commissioners also helped the company select Moody by declaring the 160-acre site to be an industrial park, which will help the company apply for grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs as the plant expands. The county also paid a $40,015 share of a matching grant from the Community Development Block Grant Program to build a rail spur to the industrial park.
Getting to WorkJenkins Brick paid $4.5 million for the new LFG pipeline to run from the landfill to the new plant approximately six miles away. "The pipeline goes under two federal highways, an interstate and a railroad," says Jenkins. "It also crosses the main line for Southern Natural Gas, so we picked up a natural gas supply in the same trench, which was fortunate."
Now fully operational, the new plant produces modular, queen-size and jumbo utility brick in colors and textures not manufactured at Jenkins Brick's other two plants. "We hope to reach the aesthetic taste of more customers," says Jenkins.
Two tunnel dryers and one kiln operate on a combined LFG/natural gas combustion system. Designed and provided by Lingl, the equipment was modified slightly to accommodate the LFG. "The modifications are electronic," explains Jenkins. "There are some valving adjustments and so forth, but the system that Lingl produced just works beautifully." The state-of-the-art plant also features automated kiln car loading and unloading handled by Fanuc robots that Lingl tailored to Jenkins Brick's needs.
Jenkins credits the plant's successful startup in no small part to the quality of local personnel. "We've been so pleasantly surprised with the quality of people we recruited in that area," he says. "They are really top flight. We moved some folks who were in management and leadership from the Montgomery area, and we've got a good group." The new plant has created approximately 55 new jobs in the community.
Environmental ImpactAt the October 2006 groundbreaking for the plant, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson said that the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 62,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That level of reduction is the equivalent of planting nearly 19,600 acres of forest or taking 13,700 cars off of the road.
Methane is the primary component of landfill gas, which results from the natural breakdown of buried waste in a landfill. Reducing methane emissions provides immediate environmental benefits because methane, a greenhouse gas, is over 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Capturing and using methane as a clean fuel also provides economic and energy security benefits. "What I like best about this project is that it uses a recycled source of energy," said Johnson.
In January 2007, the EPA named Jenkins Brick's new plant a Project of the Year. "Across the nation, EPA is helping transform landfill waste into energy wealth," said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, in making the announcement. "We are recognizing partners who have demonstrated superior innovation and environmental achievement in advancing landfill gas energy projects."
While confidential contracts prevent Jenkins from disclosing exactly how much of a cost reduction LFG presents in comparison to natural gas, it's clear that the benefits are well worth the effort. "Our years-long cooperation with EPA's LMOP program has provided us with valuable technical expertise as we identify ways to save money-and the environment," says Jenkins. "In building this innovative facility, our American-owned company shows that it is much more than a brick manufacturer and distributor."
For additional information, contact Jenkins Brick Co. at 201 6th St. North, Montgomery, AL 36101; (334) 834-2210; fax (334) 262-6817; or www.jenkinsbrick.com.
For Further Reading
- "Landfill Gas: An Alternative Fuel," Ceramic Industry/Brick & Clay Record, Volume 150, No. 1, January 2000, pp. 13-14, online at www.ceramicindustry.com/CDA/Archives/257026788a9c7010VgnVCM100000f932a8c0.
- Palkovic, Paul, "Cheaper Gas," Ceramic Industry, Vol. 151, No. 5, May 2001, pp. 29-32, online at www.ceramicindustry.com/CDA/Archives/03f244f25d9c7010VgnVCM100000f932a8c0.
- Grahl, Christine L., "Landfill Gas Update," Ceramic Industry/Brick & Clay Record, Vol. 155, No. 8, August 2005, pp. 35-37, online at www.ceramicindustry.com/CDA/Archives/2197c9d95bac7010VgnVCM100000f932a8c0.
SIDEBAR: EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach ProgramThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) has assisted in developing more than 325 landfill gas projects in the past 12 years, reducing methane emissions by about 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Nationwide, there are more than 400 projects in operation. In 2006 alone, landfill gas projects provided over 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 75 billion cubic feet of landfill gas to corporate and government end users. These projects produced energy equivalent to powering roughly 780,000 homes and heating nearly 1.2 million homes, turning the landfills into community assets.
LMOP is a voluntary assistance and partnership program that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by supporting landfill gas energy project development. The program also assists countries throughout the world in developing landfill methane reduction projects through the international Methane to Markets Partnership. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/lmop.