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BMW Manufacturing extends plans to produce energy from landfill gas in Spartanburg County

Ross Norton //April 21, 2023//

BMW Manufacturing extends plans to produce energy from landfill gas in Spartanburg County

Ross Norton //April 21, 2023//

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At the BMW Energy Center, pipes carry landfill gas to two gas turbines. (Photo/Fred Rollison/BMW)BMW Manufacturing has extended its partnership with the company that helps the manufacturer meet 20% of its energy needs by recycling methane gas from a landfill.

BMW Manufacturing says the effort has reduced 9,200 tons of carbon emissions every year for the last 20 years since the company first started using the technology to provide electricity and hot water for the plant.

The partnership with Ameresco Inc. will be extended another eight years, which will reduce emissions by the equivalent of vehicles driving 23.5 million miles annually, BMW Manufacturing said in a news release. The renewed agreement will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 74,000 tons, the release said.

Ameresco constructed the 9.5-mile pipeline from the Palmetto Landfill to Plant Spartanburg.

Helmut Leube, president of BMW Manufacturing from 2000-2004, stands with EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman at BMW's landfill gas announcement in 2003. (Photo/BMW Archive)“For two decades, this project has been a win-win for Upstate South Carolina,” Robert Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said in the release. “It greatly reduces CO2 emissions, resulting in cleaner, healthier air for everyone to breathe. Intelligent resource management and the fight against climate change are expressions of our sense of responsibility. The BMW Group will reduce CO2 emissions per vehicle by 40% from 2019 levels by 2030 across the spectrum.”

Ameresco also built the gas processing and compression facilities.

“The old saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure is literally true for our landfill gas-to-energy project,” stated BMW Group’s Manfred Pernitsch, vice president of real estate management and environmental protection for the Americas. “This project has greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution for two decades. We have used the energy produced by our turbines to heat the office and production areas as well as heat our water, saving BMW several million dollars each year,” he said in the release.

Michael Bakas, Ameresco’s executive vice president, said BMW was taking a bold step when it signed up for the technology two decades ago.

“While it was not a common topic in many corporate America board rooms, it was for our partners at BMW. We are excited to be celebrating the renewal of an innovative project engagement that was far ahead of its time,” Bakas said in the release. “We are also grateful for the many core team members at BMW whose passion for sustainability resulted in a best-in-class project to harness the power of biogas solutions to usher in a cleaner era for the auto industry.”

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, landfills are the third-largest human-generated course of methane emissions in the United States. Methane gas is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic materials in landfills. It is also a potent greenhouse gas that is a key contributor to global climate change. Reducing methane emissions, according to the EPA, is one of the best ways to mitigate climate change.

The BMW project captures the methane produced at the landfill using dozens of gas extraction wells. The gas is then treated to remove moisture and impurities and is compressed at the landfill’s recovery and compression station. The methane then travels through a pipeline to the BMW plant. There, it is cleaned and compressed again and then fed into two gas turbines at the plant’s energy center.

BMW Manufacturing in Greer is the largest BMW Group plant in the world, producing 1,500 vehicles daily.