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Trash To Gas? It's Happening In Westmoreland County

Most people would only expect to see one thing at a landfill: trash.

But the slogan on the side of a County Hauling garbage trucks prove there's a lot more going on at Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill in Belle Vernon. The slogan reads "Your trash is our gas."

The innovative process of converting trash to gas is why about a dozen members of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Conservation Committee visited the site last month, to hear from the founders of parent company Noble Environmental.

They learned that the $10 million dollar investment will greatly improve emissions. Noble Environmental starts by collecting landfill gas and then converts it into valuable natural gas that powers natural gas vehicles for its subsidiary County Hauling.

"We have gas collection with a vacuum that all ties into a major vacuum compressor. The compressor ties into main headers and moves the gas into a big pipe that goes into the gas plant," said Rich Walton, CEO of Noble Environmental.

During the tour, committee members got to see the wells that collect gas from trash. Noble Environmental co-founder Alex Sulkowski explained that the every molecule of methane that is recovered from landfill gas can be injected into pipelines as natural gas.

"Right here is the heart of our new investment, this is where we take the landfill gas and process it into fuel," said Sulkowski during the tour.

Inside the gas plant, Noble officials explained that the same technology used in Boeing Aircrafts is used here. It's called gas separation membrane technology. That same membrane technology is now being used to separate methane from the gases emitted at landfills across the country.

"This is a massive beneficial re-use and good for the environment," said Walton.

Outside the plant, visitors saw an onsite fueling station for County Hauling trucks. The same landfill gas that was collected and cleaned is now being pumped into the natural gas vehicles. Those garbage trucks pick up trash all over Western Pa.

"One of the primary missions of the committee it to educate the general assembly. We bring issues such as this landfill and it's methane capture technology to the attention of representatives and senators," said Tony Guerrieri, Executive Director of the visiting committee.

"You may not hear about this now, but in a year, three years, five years, this is going to be something you'll want to know about because it's trending, it's the future, just to give them a heads up."

Noble Environmental is transitioning to all natural gas powered vehicles and plans to increase the number of nearby fueling stations soon.

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