Every time someone pours a drink from one of those new-fangled Coca-Cola Co. fountain dispensers – the kind that can provide more than 100 different beverages – a tip of the hat goes to landfill gas.
That's because cartridges that contain concentrate for the new machines, called Freestyle, are made at an Atlanta manufacturing facility that's powered by the gas from the nearby Hickory Ridge landfill, which is owned by Republic Services Inc.
Landfill gas is piped from Conley, Ga., to the Atlanta facility and used to generate electricity and steam at the Coca-Cola site that includes an existing plant as well as the new Freestyle manufacturing space.
"Right now, we're covering very near 100% of the entire facility, the legacy facility and the new facility" with landfill gas, said Richard Crowther, sustainable energy manager for Coca-Cola Refreshments. "But this product is being rolled out now and we expect in a number of years when we level out production, it will be about half."
Landfill gas is piped some six miles from the Republic Services Inc. landfill to Coca-Cola where it is used in three engines, said Jason Byars, vice president of business and project development for Mas Energy LLC. His company developed and owns the landfill gas project.
"In many ways the project is a typical landfill gas power generation project, but in many ways it's atypical," Byars said.
That's due, in part, to the less-than-straight line the landfill gas pipeline had to travel to join the two sites located about five miles apart, he said.
Mas Energy and Coca-Cola had to rely on rights-of-way and easements to route the pipeline to connect the dots.
"The pipeline added a certain amount of complexity that was unique to this project," Byars said. "It was not a straight line as the crow flies. ... It was a circuitous route, to say the least."
Constructing a project with three large stationary engines in Atlanta, which has pollution problems, also created challenges.
Because the area is known in government lingo as a "non-attainment area," project developers decided to install pollution control equipment on the engines to greatly limit the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions coming from the site.
And because that pollution control equipment is very sensitive, Mas Energy also had to make sure the landfill gas was free from impurities called siloxanes that would ruin that equipment if contaminated.
That required additional equipment at the landfill to remove the siloxanes, which are impurities that evaporate into the landfill gas and come from shampoos and other hygiene products that are thrown away.
Byars said the need for all of that additional gear added to the complexity but not to the point of derailing the project.
Mas Energy could have sought permits that would have allowed more pollution to be released, but both he and Crowther said Coca-Cola wanted a project that would limit its environmental impact.
"The last thing that any of us wanted to do is build a project that could in any way be perceived as contributing to the problem," Byars said.
Because the Freestyle dispensing machine is newer, Coca-Cola is manufacturing the cartridges only at a single location at this point.