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City finally moves on capturing greenhouse gases from landfill

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Brady Road Landfill

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After more than a decade of delays, the city is finally capturing and burning greenhouse gases produced by rotting garbage at Winnipeg's largest dump.

The Brady Road Landfill is one of the province's biggest greenhouse-gas polluters, along with the southwestern Manitoba oilpatch, the Koch fertilizer plant near Brandon and and ethanol plant in Minnedosa. Data from Environment Canada show the Winnipeg dump's emissions increased by four per cent in 2011, reaching 380,000 tonnes. That's about the same weight as 31,000 Greyhound buses.

But city solid-waste officials hope they can cut those emissions in half now that gas is finally being captured. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and Manitoba Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh held a press conference at the landfill late this morning to herald this achievement, originally planned 11 years ago.

Rotting garbage in landfills produces methane and carbon dioxide. Both are greenhouse gases, but methane has a global-warming potential at least 21 times that of carbon dioxide.

More than 40 wells have been dug deep into an old section of the Brady Road Landfill. About seven kilometres of underground pipes help suck the methane out of the dump's depths and funnel it to a flare, where it's burned off. The methane-capture system is sized to eventually fit the entire dump, and it can be upgraded to turn the methane into heat or electricity -- the original idea, in 2002.

Until now, Winnipeg's has been one of the few major urban landfills without a methane capture and burning process.

A plan to catch up was hatched in 2002, when the city, province and Manitoba Hydro announced a feasibility study. After that, a plan to use the captured gas to heat the University of Manitoba fizzled. In 2009, following a request for proposals, a proponent willing to capture and flare the landfill gas was found but the deal fell through. By then, the city and province had abandoned the idea of using the dump gas for heat or power, largely because market conditions were keeping natural gas prices low and Manitoba Hydro is loath to buy power that's more expensive than it can produce from northern dams.

"I got over that disappointment a long time ago," Coun. Dan Vandal, who chairs council's public works committee, said in June. "This is still an incredibly positive thing for the city."

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