The same garbage that is collected in St. Landry Parish is now being used to power the trucks that haul it to the parish landfill every day.
An on-site refueling station at the landfill just north of Interstate 49 in Beggs now allows drivers to fill up on a pristine form of compressed natural gas produced by decomposing garbage.
Bruce Emely, area manager for Progressive Waste Solutions, which contracts with the parish’s Solid Waste Commission to collect residential garbage, said his company has partnered with the commission to operate trucks that use compressed natural gas extracted from biological waste dumped at the landfill.
The refueling station at the landfill was funded by a $2.7 million capital outlay project approved by the Solid Waste Commission, which oversees the operation of the landfill in northern St. Landry Parish, said Executive Director Katry Martin.
Funding for the landfill, parishwide garbage collection and a recycling program is funded from a sales tax collected in St. Landry since the early 1980s.
Martin said the commission expects to recover the cost of the project from the annual sale of the compressed natural gas to Progressive and from other environmental incentives from federal and state agencies.
Steven Whittman, project manager for BioCNG LLC, a company that helped create the vacuum system process used to draw the biogas from the landfill and convert it to fuel used by the garbage trucks, said the system being used in St. Landry is the only one of its kind statewide.
Faltery Jolivette, who supervises the landfill’s fueling site, said two large vacuum pumps draw gas from the 40-acre landfill into several tanks through an extensive underground piping system.
Jolivette said the landfill gas undergoes a cleaning and storage system before it is ready to be used to power the trucks.
Trucks that need refueling approach the pumping station at the landfill and, by means of an automated key, begin the transaction where valves from the trucks are connected to pumps, Jolivette said.
Emely said Progressive Waste, which formerly used diesel engines, pays about $1.80 per gallon for the landfill gas pumped at the landfill and at a satellite fueling station at the parish recycling center west of Opelousas.
Martin said the contract with Progressive to refuel the company’s trucks is the third in a series of projects that has used the landfill’s methane gas in an ecologically friendly manner.
The first of those efforts came in 2009, when the landfill developed a flaring system to burn off excess methane gas generated at the landfill, Martin said.
A second project began several years later when the commission approved an initiative that used the compressed natural gas for commission-owned trucks at the landfill and for several St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office vehicles that were converted to CNG.
Commission Chairman Jerry Domengeaux said some commissioners expressed initial concerns about project costs, but “once we got all the information and the project was laid out before use, we approved it.”
He said the second phase of the project — after the flaring system and the conversion of the sheriff’s vehicles and some commission vehicles — went well, and commissioners were on board with the garbage trucks and the pipeline system.
Emely said the company buys garbage trucks that have engines already converted at the factories to run on natural gas.
“It costs us about $40,000 more for each truck to run on the natural gas, but we think there are a lot of benefits that come with that,” Emely said. “The trucks we have now are quieter and run cleaner. We’re going to go that way with these engines regardless of the cost.”
Emely said the garbage trucks, which cost about $375,000 each, are expected to last about 10 years before being replaced.
Some of the company’s trucks used in Natchitoches and Jefferson Parish use the same compressed natural gas technology. St. Landry is the only area where the entire fleet uses the CNG system, Emely said.