Gas collection system operators direct daily operations, maintenance, or repair of landfill gas projects to create renewable energy.
Landfill gas is created when organic waste in a municipal solid waste landfill decomposes. This gas consists of about 50% methane. Instead of being allowed to escape into the air, landfill gas can be captured, converted, and used as an energy source. Using landfill gas helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with landfill gas emissions, and helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change.
Landfill gas utilization is a process of gathering, processing, and treating the methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage to produce electricity, heat, fuels, and various chemical compounds. Of the 2,400 currently operating municipal solid waste landfills in the U.S., more than 570 have landfill gas utilization projects. It is estimated that as many as 450 additional landfills could cost-effectively have their methane turned into renewable “green” energy resource, producing enough electricity to power 500,000 homes across the U.S.
Methane/landfill gas collection system operators main responsibility is to monitor and control liquid or gas landfill extraction systems. They oversee gas collection landfill operations, including leachate and gas management or rail operations. They operate computerized control panels to manage gas compression operations. They also develop or enforce procedures for normal operation, start-up, or shut-down of methane gas collection systems.
On a daily basis, methane/landfill gas collection system operators maintain records for landfill gas collection systems to demonstrate compliance with safety and environmental laws, regulations, or policies. They monitor gas collection systems emissions data, including biomethane or nitrous oxide levels. They evaluate landfill gas collection service requirements to meet operational plans and productivity goals.
Safety is an important aspect of methane/landfill gas collection system operators job. They optimize gas collection landfill operational costs and productivity to be consistent with safety and environmental rules and regulations. They implement landfill operational and emergency procedures. They inspect landfill or conduct site audits to ensure adherence to safety and environmental regulations. They also monitor landfill permit requirements for updates.
As part of their job, methane/landfill gas collection system operators oversee landfill gas collection system construction, maintenance, and repair activities. They prepare and manage landfill gas collection system budgets. They prepare soil reports as required by regulatory or permitting agencies. They supervise landfill, well field, and other subordinate employees. They also coordinate the repair, overhaul, or routine maintenance of diesel engines used in landfill operations.
Methane/landfill gas collection system operators also need to read meters, gauges, or automatic recording devices at specified intervals to verify gas collection systems operating conditions. They diagnose or troubleshoot gas collection equipment and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems. They prepare reports on landfill operations and gas collection system productivity or efficiency. They recommend or implement practices to reduce turnaround time for trucks in and out of landfill site. They also track volume and weight of landfill waste.
Most methane/landfill gas collection system operators work both in production areas and their offices. While in the production area, they must follow established health and safety practices and wear the required protective clothing and equipment. The time in the office, which often is located near production areas, usually is spent meeting with subordinates or other department managers, analyzing production data and writing and reviewing reports.
Many methane/landfill gas collection system operators often need to work extended hours, especially when production deadlines must be met. In 2008, about a third of all workers worked more than 50 hours a week, on average. In facilities that operate around the clock, managers often work late shifts and may be called at any hour to deal with emergencies.
To obtain a green job as a methane/landfill gas collection system operator, it is usually required a bachelor’s degree. Most employers prefer to hire workers with a college degree in business administration or industrial engineering. Experience in some part of production operations is usually required also.
Applicants with experience in production occupations, along with a college degree in industrial engineering, management or a related field, will enjoy the best job prospects. Some methane/landfill gas collection system operators earn certifications that show their competency in various quality and management systems. Although certification is not required for methane/landfill gas collection system operator jobs, it may improve job prospects.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a bright outlook for methane/landfill gas collection system operators and expects employment of this field to show little or no change from 2012 until 2022. However, the demand for methane/landfill gas collection system operators is expected to go up. The BLS projected 31,400 methane/landfill gas collection system operator job openings between 2012 and 2022, and noted 173,000 jobs are currently filled. Titles include Gas Collection System Operator, Gas Operation Manager, Landfill Gas Collection Operator, Landfill Gas Collection System Operator, Methane Gas Collection System Operator, and Methane/Landfill Gas Collecting System Operator. The BLS further reports that the median annual wage for salaried methane/landfill gas collection system operators was $89,190 in 2012 with median hourly wage of $42.88. Across the US job market, the lowest 10% of methane/landfill gas collection system operators earned about $53,130 a year, and the top 10% earned about $148,670 a year. Methane/landfill gas collection system operators can receive the best compensation in Texas, where they earn compensation, on average, of about $114,090. People in this job function are compensated at the highest average salary in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, where they get average pay levels of $112,570.