Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from a biological waste treatment facility

Morten Bang Jensen, Jacob Møller, Jacob Mønster, Charlotte Scheutz

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Whole-site emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, from a combined dry anaerobic digestion and composting facility treating biowaste, were quantified using a tracer dispersion technique that combines a controlled tracer gas release from the treatment facility with time-resolved concentration measurements downwind of the facility. Emission measurements were conducted over a period of three days, and in total, 80 plume traverses were obtained. On-site screening showed that important processes resulting in methane emissions were aerobic composting reactors, anaerobic digester reactors, composting windrows and the site's biofilter. Average whole-site methane emissions measured during the three days were 27.5±7.4, 28.5±6.1 and 30.1±11.4kg CH4 h-1, respectively. Turning the windrows resulted in an increase in methane emission from about 26.3-35.9kg CH4 h-1. Lower emissions (21.5kg CH4 h-1) were measured after work hours ended, in comparison to emissions measured during the facility's opening hours (30.2kg CH4 h-1). Nitrous oxide emission was too small for a downwind quantification. Direct on-site measurements, however, suggested that the main part of the emitted nitrous oxide came from the biofilter (about 1.4kg N2O h-1). Whole-site emissions were compared to emissions previously measured at different point sources on-site. Whole-site fugitive emissions were three to eight times higher than the sum of emissions measured at on-site sources. The magnitude of the emissions had a significant influence on the overall environmental impact of the treatment facility, assessed by consequential life cycle assessment. Including the higher whole-site fugitive emissions led to an increase in global warming potential, from a saving of 97kgCO2-eq.tonne-1 of treated waste (wet weight) to a loading of 71kg CO2-eq. tonne-1, ultimately flipping the environmental profile of the treatment facility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Pages (from-to)375-384
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biogas
  • Biowaste
  • Composting
  • Emission measurement
  • Environmental assessment
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Tracer dispersion


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from a biological waste treatment facility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this