Maximizing Landfill Energy Plant Benefits with Metal Bellows Expansion Joints

Metal Bellows Landfill Energy

Landfill waste-to-energy plants and gas-to-energy plants provide a number of benefits to the environment, to the community, and to the landfill owners and operators themselves.

The degree to which landfill energy plants provide the benefits hinges on the efficiency of the plants. More efficient gas-to-energy or waste-to-energy plants trap and eliminate more environmental hazards; provide more cost-efficient energy to the community; and generate greater revenue for the owners and operators.

The more efficient the Municipal Solid Waste landfill energy plant, the greater the benefits for everyone involved. And metal bellows expansion joints from an experienced custom provider are pivotal to the efficiency of landfill energy plants.

Gas-to-energy and waste-to-energy plants largely are turbine systems in which waste or gas is burned to generate steam and turn a turbine. These turbine-based electricity operations are inherently prone to high and fluctuating temperatures, which cause thermal damage; axial, angular, lateral and rotational movement leading to misalignment of components; as well high vibration that is transmitted along ductwork and can cause damage and misalignment.

Metal bellows expansion joints — including pipe expansion joints, stainless steel bellows, exhaust bellows, and exhaust expansion joints — are flexible and made to custom-made to mitigate the thermal, movement, and vibration damage in large industrial operations. Metal bellows expansion joints help a turbine-based electricity operation like a landfill energy plant operate at peak efficiency for maximum benefit.

In other words, metal bellows expansion joints from an experienced custom provider help ensure that the environmental, community, and owner-operator benefits of a landfill energy plant are realized to the greatest degree possible.

The Benefits of Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Energy Plants

Whether the landfill energy plant produces electricity from burning garbage or from burning the methane gas generated from the decomposition of garbage, landfills that perform such waste-to-energy operations benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest human-generated source of methane gas in the United States, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, and landfills that burn methane gas for energy can prevent 60-90 percent of the methane gas from escaping into the environment — depending on the efficiency of the gas-to-energy plant.

Burning the waste itself — rather than the methane — likewise limits greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution; waste that is burned for energy is waste is that is not allowed to decompose and generate the methane gas byproduct in the first place.

There are community benefits as well. Municipal Solid Waste Landfill waste-to-energy and gas-to-energy plants create temporary construction jobs and permanent operations and maintenance jobs that keep the energy plant running as efficiently as possible. The waste-to-energy and gas-to-energy plants also provide a cost-efficient source of electricity to the community, replacing more expensive, and more environmentally-damaging, fossil fuels.

Finally, the owners and operators of landfill gas-to-energy and waste-to-energy plants benefit as well. Landfill energy plants generate revenue for owners and operators as the electricity is sold to the community. Environmental compliance costs are also reduced as the landfill energy plants represent a more cost-efficient (in fact, revenue-generating) way of capturing the emissions the landfill is already required to capture under the Clean Air Act.

Understanding Landfill Energy Plants: Challenges to Overcome for Efficiency

Understanding how landfill waste-to-energy plants operate, and the challenges inherent in the operation, is key to understanding how to operate the energy plants at top efficiency — with the help of metal bellows expansion joints or stainless steel bellows — for maximum benefit.

Most landfill energy plants use turbines to produce electricity in a high-temperature, high-vibration environment that requires metal bellows expansion joints to mitigate the damage otherwise caused by heat and vibration. (Manufacturers of expansion joints, both metal bellows and fabric expansion joints, usually are familiar with turbine-based energy plants and the thermal and vibration challenges they face. Expansion joints from Flexcom are used in turbine-based electricity generation.)

In the case of a landfill energy plant the methane byproduct of decomposed garbage, or the garbage itself, is incinerated to boil water. The boiled water creates steam, which turns a turbine to generate electricity. In the process, exhaust systems composed of heavy duty ductwork and industrial air-moving systems filter out heavy metals and toxins from the burning process.

The methane gas used as a fuel source at landfill gas-to-energy plants burns at 1950 degrees Celsius (3542 degrees Fahrenheit or 2223 Kelvin), creating extreme thermal stress and fluctuations, particularly as the turbine starts from a cold state. The extreme heating and cooling, and expansion and contraction, cause landfill energy plant components to become misaligned or fail, reducing efficiency if not leading to a critical failure that requires downtime, or worse, results in injury.

Vibrations and mechanical movement add significant additional stresses to turbine-based energy operations like landfill energy plants, creating constant stress on ductwork and its connected parts. The turbulent flow of gas through the components increases vibration as well as creating rapid shifts in gas pressure, called flutter, that can damage ductwork or cause it to become misaligned.

Furthermore, the exhaust bellow or exhaust expansion joint connecting the turbine duct and exhaust duct often represents a single point of failure. Without a metal bellows expansion joint custom engineered for the specific application, the plant can be prone to shut down at any time.

Metal Bellows for Efficient Landfill Energy

Landfill gas-to-energy and a waste-to-energy plants operate in a high-temperature, high-vibration environment that requires custom metal bellows expansion joints to compensate for the stressful environment.

Since metal bellows expansion joints are manufactured to be flexible and a custom fit for the components and ductwork that they connect, the landfill energy plant enjoys enhanced structural flexibility to compensate for the stresses of temperature, movement, and vibration.

From the beginning, such as where a pipe expansion joint compensates for movement and vibration at the point where gas is piped into the operation, to the end, such as where exhaust bellows or an exhaust expansion joint helps carry out exhaust, the landfill energy plant can be more efficient.

While metal bellows expansion joints guard against the type of damage that causes downtime, they are on a day-to-day basis guarding against the smaller movements or misalignments that allow energy to escape. In an operation that aims to leverage heat for steam and ultimately electricity, the loss of energy is the loss of output — and the loss of environmental, community, and owner-operator benefit.

Custom metal bellows expansion joints create the most efficiency and ultimately maximum benefit for the environment, community, and owner-operators of landfill energy plants.

Custom Metal Bellows for Caterpillar and Other Landfill Energy Plant Equipment

Metal bellows expansion joints from FlexCom are custom made in a variety of sizes and shapes with a ranges of metal stiffness and flexibility to fit almost any landfill gas-to-energy equipment for maximum efficiency and equipment durability.

This includes custom equipment as well as standard equipment, such as equipment from popular providers like Caterpillar, which makes equipment for landfill gas-to-energy plants (as well as equipment for traditional daily landfill operations).

FlexCom pipe expansion joints are ideal for fuel intake at landfill gas-to-energy plants, where methane gas is typically piped in as a fuel source for turbine-based electricity generation. As methane gas is piped into the system pipe expansion joints compensate for extreme pressure, movement, vibration, and abrasion to preserve adjoining components including Caterpillar equipment

Meanwhile, flexcom exhaust bellows and exhaust expansion joints preserve components in the exhaust equipment and ductwork of landfill gas-to-energy plants, compensating for extreme movement, vibration, and other stresses in systems expel carbon dioxide and other emissions.

Whether for Caterpillar landfill energy equipment or any landfill energy equipment, the key is a range of stiffness and flexibility that creates a custom-fit for almost any application. FlexCom carefully chooses a metal stiffness from stainless steel to other metals, and achieves a range of flexibility with single-ply and multi-ply expansion joints

The result is maximum durability and efficiency for intake and outtake components and landfill gas-to-energy plants as a whole.

Landfill Energy Plants: Maximizing Efficiency for Greatest Benefits

The benefits of landfill gas-to-energy and waste-to-energy plants are broad.

The degree to which the benefits are realized, however, can vary greatly based upon the efficiency of the landfill energy plant: it was pointed out, for example, that according to the U.S. EPA, the amount of methane gas captured and burned at a methane gas-to-energy plant can vary from 60 to 90 percent depending on the efficiency of the plant.

In other words, the environmental, community, and owner-operator benefits of a landfill gas-to-energy plant can be 50% greater if the plant is running at maximum efficiency. The more efficient and landfill energy plant, the more greenhouse gasses and air pollution are kept out of the environment; the more cost-effective energy is created for the community; and the more costs are controlled and revenue generated for owners and operators.

Whether gas-to-energy or waste-to-energy, landfill energy plants are high-temperature, high-vibration turbine operations that benefit from the heat and damage mitigation of custom metal bellows expansion joints. Custom metal bellows expansion joints — including stainless steel bellows, pipe expansion joints, exhaust bellows and exhaust expansion joints — help ensure the plant minimizes environmental impacts, produces the most cost-effective electricity, and generates the most income.

Landfill energy plants provide benefits to the environment, community, and owners — and custom metal bellows expansion joints maximize the benefits.