California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Solid Waste Facilities Engineering Support Services

Emerging Technologies

Waste management is opening up new opportunities for innovative technologies, from gas control, conversion from gas to energy, biodiesel and fuel cells, to landfill cap design.

Landfill Gas-to-Energy

Technologies that convert landfill biomass and gas to electric energy. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) supports the environmentally sound conversion of landfill gas to energy as a higher-end use where gas would otherwise be released uncontrolled to the environment or flared.

California Energy Commission (CEC) is the lead State agency for partnership with U.S. EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP). CIWMB, RCTS Branch provides technical support to CEC in this partnership and assists in coordination with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) on activities of the California Landfill Gas Energy Task Force. CIWMB (now CalRecycle) facilitated a state-wide workshop on landfill gas-to-energy conducted at the CalEPA building in October 2001.

Bioreactor Technology:

  • Yolo County Landfill, a gas-to-energy conversion bioreactor: Using controlled fluids, waste input and isolation, a bioreactor can reduce wastes in much less time than normally practiced, generating useful landfill gas to power energy conversion engines.
  • Florida Bioreactor Demonstration Project--Design and Construction Experiences: A slide presentation on a demonstration bioreactor project at the New River Regional Landfill that serves five counties in the state of Florida. The lined 46-acre landfill collects approximately 800 tons per day of municipal solid wastes. The 576,000-cubic-yard bioreactor will occupy approximately 10 acres of the landfill's area. Slides and text provide step-by-step views into bioreactor construction.

Microturbine Technology: Lopez Canyon Landfill as well as many other landfills, uses new microturbines in large "fields" to generate electric energy from landfill gas. Small, light, portable and easily assembled into generating fields, microturbines are an efficient means to generate electricity from landfill gas.

Lopez Canyon gas-to-energy facility microturbines Lopez Canyon 23 gas-to-energy microturbines

Fuel Cell Technology: Use of fuel cells to convert methane gas into the hydrogen components for fuel cell operation. Use in a landfill in southern California in Santa Ana is in proposal.

Biodiesel: Biodiesel is a nontoxic, biodegradable replacement for petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, recycled cooking oil and tallow. This technology converts wastes such as cooking oils and grease into a functional clean-burning diesel fuel substitute.

CalRecycle is currently funding a research project in Yosemite Valley with the University of California, Riverside as the contractor. The project is using oils and greases from the Yosemite Valley concessionaires and converting it to biodiesel which is being tested in a bus in Yosemite Valley. Emissions testing was conducted in the summer and winter and results will be available shortly. For additional information regarding biodiesel and the Yosemite Valley research project, contact Brian Larimore at (916) 341-6579.


Digesters: This technology can convert waste biomass and its resultant biogas into useful on-site energy. One company, Onsite Power Systems, markets and operates an anaerobic digester, which quickly decomposes a variety of food and animal wastes. Onsite has successfully designed and installed a large fuel cell energy conversion system into a Southern California wastewater treatment plant and has constructed a pilot digester system at the University of California, Davis. A similar facility will be constructed at CSU, Channel Islands in Ventura County.

Onsite Power integrates its digesters with power plants. This technology can utilize many wastes including green waste, animal bedding, and agricultural residues. In addition, Riverside County, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, and Waste Management, Inc. have selected an anaerobic digestion process to be constructed adjacent to a transfer station that will be sited at the Edom Hill Landfill near Cathedral City. Additional resources include:

Thermal Conversion Process: The thermal conversion process is a technology that enables the conversion of waste feedstock into specialty chemicals, oils, gases, carbons and fertilizers. The thermal conversion process, or TCP, mimics the earth’s natural geothermal process by using water, heat and pressure to chemically reform organic and inorganic wastes into useful chemicals and compounds. These materials are supplied in their raw forms and can be delivered as the original materials as in plastics from computer cases, tires or solid waste streams. These materials are first reduced into a manageable homogeneous material that can be fed into the TCP processing system. The TCP process reduces them into the basic molecules as fuel gas, oils and other useful materials. Even heavy metals are transformed into harmless oxides. Additional resources include:

  • Thermal Conversion Process: This document includes a description, how it works, steps in the process, and energy and environmental efficiency.

Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP)

US EPA’s official website link to all things technical, dealing with landfill methane technology. The Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), created as part of the United States' commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is a voluntary program designed to encourage and facilitate the development of environmentally and economically sound LFG projects. LMOP does this by educating local government and communities about the benefits of LFG recovery and building partnerships among state agencies, industry, energy service providers, local communities, and other stakeholders interested in developing this valuable resource in their community.

Alternative Caps (ACAP)

New alternative cover designs in landfill caps instead of the prescriptive clay cap designs currently employed in landfills. These new cover designs can employ plastic HDPE layers, clay geotextiles and monolithic or mono-covers. The advent of bioreactors is creating another frontier in cover design. The Yolo County Landfill is one instance where a bioreactor is being employed.

Other Resources:

Active Flare/Landfill Gas-to-Energy Facilities in California with Flares

California Energy Commission (CEC) Landfill Conversion Technologies

CEC Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Renewables Program

Case Studies:

Technical Services Home

Last updated: July 16, 2013
Closure and Technical Services,
Mike Wochnick: (916) 341-6318