Methodology to determine the extent of anaerobic digestion, composting and CH4 oxidation in a landfill environment
Obersky, Lizanne; Rafiee, Reza; Cabral, Alexandre; Golding, Suzanne D.; Clarke, William P.
Abstract: An examination of the processes contributing to the production of landfill greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is required, as the actual level to which waste degrades anaerobically and aerobically beneath covers has not been differentiated. This paper presents a methodology to distinguish between the rate of anaerobic digestion (rAD), composting (rCOM) and CH4 oxidation (rOX) in a landfill environment, by means of a system of mass balances developed for molecular species (CH4, CO2) and stable carbon isotopes (δ13C-CO2 and δ13C-CH4). The technique was applied at two sampling locations on a sloped area of landfill. Four sampling rounds were performed over an 18 month period after a 1.0 m layer of fresh waste and 30-50 cm of silty clay loam had been placed over the area. Static chambers were used to measure the flux of the molecular and isotope species at the surface and soil gas probes were used to collect gas samples at depths of approximately 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 m. Mass balances were based on the surface flux and the concentration of the molecular and isotopic species at the deepest sampling depth. The sensitivity of calculated rates was considered by randomly varying stoichiometric and isotopic parameters by ±5% to generate at least 500 calculations of rOX, rAD and rCOM for each location in each sampling round. The resulting average value of rAD and rCOM indicated anaerobic digestion and composting were equally dominant at both locations. Average values of rCOM: ranged from 9.8 to 44.5 g CO2 m-2 d-1 over the four sampling rounds, declining monotonically at one site and rising then falling at the other. Average values of rAD: ranged from 10.6 to 45.3 g CO2 m-2 d-1. Although the highest average rAD value occurred in the initial sampling round, all subsequent rAD values fell between 10 and 20 g CO2 m-2 d-1. rOX had the smallest activity contribution at both sites, with averages ranging from 1.6 to 8.6 g CO2 m-2 d-1. This study has demonstrated that for an interim cover, composting and anaerobic digestion of shallow landfill waste can occur simultaneously.