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Autonomous Gas Monitoring for the Landfill Sector – Why Now?

Autonomous Gas Monitoring for the Landfill Sector – Why Now?

Steve Wilson

There’s an old adage that says “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. This mantra is particularly relevant to environmental monitoring, whereby data on conditions and metrics lead to a more informed understanding of the underlying processes affecting the scenario in question. The Landfill Sector is one where autonomous gas monitoring is the new kid on the block:

Current practices for gas monitoring on landfill sites are led by manual sampling with a handheld meter. There are a number of issues that such a technique poses:

  • Infrequent Data – Remote locations, compounded by typically difficult-to-access terrain, unfortunately but invariably result in infrequent and sporadic data collection.
  • Difficulty Establishing Trends – Given that the current process involves single spot readings, it’s very difficult to establish any trends in gas behaviour yet very easy to be misled by temporary high or low gas levels at the time of sampling.
  • Integrity of the Data – The integrity of the data is dependent on the tubing connection, purging time, readings’ stabilisation time and calibration status of the handheld meter.

As it stands the industry would clearly benefit from an autonomous gas monitoring device. However, emerging technologies from innovation in the sector have been expensive and inefficient. Until now.

What has changed?

#1. Technology
Sensors have become more cost-effective and display better long-term performance. This, coupled with the rise of the internet of things communications, makes it possible to bring a product to market at the right price point and one that is accessible to monitor from anywhere.
#2. Demand
The increasing number of sites that are remote and unmanned has driven demand for a new approach to long-term monitoring. Similarly, landfills which employ gas utilisation power plants necessitate advances in innovation so as to achieve optimally run sites.
#3. Data Availability
Production of large datasets with the added utilisation of data from disparate sources, meteorological and local data, for example, enables enhanced data analytics in a way that wasn’t possible before.
#4. Regulation
Regulatory resources are experiencing increasing scarcity and so optimisation of the regulators time through technically sophisticated compliance programs is required. Indeed, there is an increased willingness of regulatory authorities to look at BAT approaches (Best Available Technology) in an effort to work with exciting and innovative technologies. A great example of this is the UK Environmental Agency ACUMEN Project.
#5. Health & Safety
There is a drive to reduce the risk involved in lone workers carrying out monitoring work on remote and hazardous sites. On some sites health and safety recommendations encourage staff to execute duties in pairs but with this comes a doubling of the cost borne on the operators, even if outsourced. Autonomous gas monitoring significantly reduces the cost involved and satisfies health and safety concerns.
#6. Environmental Impact
Operators are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the work they carry out. Maintaining sites over large distances can contribute to negative environmental impacts. Staff travelling to remote sites not only incur fuel costs but also incur an ever-growing carbon footprint.

Autonomous Gas Monitoring

These shifts have allowed for a gap in the market that allows for the introduction of technology that can; be deployed at any location; is capable of delivering real-time data; is autonomous in terms of power and operator engagement; and continually produces sophisticated datasets which are wirelessly transmitted for access from the user’s smartphone, tablet or computer.

Such advancements allow for more efficient use of manpower, whereby site license compliance can be more easily met and gas capture can be more effectively managed. Additionally, analysis of the data will lead to:

  • Diagnosis of gas migration risks and pathways
  • Better informed field balancing to boost gas yield
  • Eliminating air leaks and aerobic conditions
  • Ultimately providing better quality and quantity of fuel for gas utilisation plants
  • Increased revenues.
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