BMW Mfg. Co. says the paint shop at its Spartanburg, SC, assembly plant will be fueled by recycled methane gas generated by the nearby Palmetto Landfill.

The move will make Spartanburg the first automotive paint shop to use landfill gas in its process equipment, according to Plymouth, MI-based Durr Systems, which is modifying and upgrading the plant’s equipment to handle the recycled methane.

In June 2002, BMW Mfg. completed a 9.5-mile (15-km) pipeline from the landfill to its assembly plant to provide some of the facility’s energy needs.

With the conversion of the paint shop, about half of the plant’s energy now is being provided via the pipeline, saving the auto maker at least $1 million per year, BMW says.

Use of the recycled gas is reducing area carbon dioxide emissions by 17,000 tons (15,422 t) and is recovering enough energy to heat 10,000 homes per year, the auto maker says.

Methane is a greenhouse-effect gas and is produced as waste decomposes. Landfills are the largest human-made methane source in the U.S., BMW says.

“The paint department is the largest consumer of energy in any automotive manufacturing plant,” says Dara Leadford, an engineering section manager who has been working on the project. “Fifty percent of our energy is used in the paint department for controlling the process environment that is a necessity for a quality surface finish.”

In addition to Durr, Ameresco Energy Services, which designed and built the pipeline, and Waste Management Inc., owner of the landfill, are participating in the program.