BMW’s Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina, US, has been named the Energy Partner of the Year by the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In May 2006 the plant converted the supply of energy at the paint shop to methane gas which saves about 60,000 tons of CO2 a year, equal to the annual heat energy consumption of some 15,000 households, and cutting the plant’s annual energy costs by an unspecified “six-digit Euro figure”, according to the automaker.

The award was made to BMW Manufacturing and Dürr Systems, supplier of the process technology for the paint shop.

Through the award, the EPA honoured what is described as one of the most ambitious landfill gas projects in North America.

Gas for the BMW plant is generated by the biological conversion of waste materials at the Palmetto landfill site 15 kilometres (about 10 miles) from the plant.

From there, methane gas goes through a pipeline directly to turbines on the BMW plant premises, where it is then used mainly to generate electric power and warm water for the paint shop.

“This is a very positive project that pays off for all parties involved. It allows us to use a source of energy previously untapped, capitalising on this supply of energy for generating electricity and heat at our plant. This enables us to reduce emissions enormously and make a significant contribution to the cause of environmental protection”, said BMW Plant Spartanburg environmental spokesman Briggs Hamilton.

In all, 63% of the energy consumed by the plant is now covered by methane gas.

Gas from the landfill was used to supply energy to the plant for the first time in 2002. With the results of this pilot application being convincing and satisfactory, this initial test set the foundation for the 100% supply of gas energy to the paint shop now becoming reality.

The Energy Partner of the Year award is presented each year as part of the EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Programme (LMOP) which promotes the partnership of communities and companies seeking to capitalise on the use of landfill gases for the generation of energy.