OPELOUSAS — Beginning next year, trucks operating at the St. Landry Parish landfill will be able to refuel with a natural energy source from the garbage mounds.

The $700,000 project involves cleaning and compressing on site the methane gas emitted from the solid waste and making the gas suitable for vehicle fuel.

The parish’s Solid Waste Commission on Monday unanimously agreed to accept a $224,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources as “seed money” for the project, said Katry Martin, landfill executive director.

Martin told the commission the remainder of the costs could be recovered by obtaining $300,000 in state tax credits to the district for initiating a renewable-energy project. Also, a federal tax credit of $30,000 would help reduce the capital outlay costs to the district, he said.

The project should save about $48,600 per year in fuel costs by converting to methane gas fuel, Martin said.

“The worst case, even if you fund the rest of the capital (after receiving the grant money), is that half of that cost is recoverable,” he said.

Commission attorney Chad Pitre said although the commission oversees the operation of a governmental body funded by a parishwide sales tax, it also qualifies as a corporation, eligible for tax credits.

“The opinions of tax lawyers that I have contracted agree that even though the district does not pay taxes, it is eligible for the credit, since there is nothing prohibiting the district from doing so,” Pitre said.

The grant amount allocated for the project is about half of what the district requested in its initial application. The district must convert the trucks’ fuel systems and tanks to run on the cleaned methane by at least March 31, in order to comply with the grant’s guidelines, Martin said.

“There are some huge landfills that clean the gas and then sell it to be placed into pipelines as natural gas. I’m not aware of any that are currently taking their methane gas and using it for their trucks,” Martin said, adding there had been a pilot project created for similar purposes at a Wisconsin landfill.

The district must also construct a fueling station complete with fuel hoses that will be attached to tanks used to store the methane, Martin said.

According to the grant application, the methane conversion will be performed on two pickup trucks and four larger Mack trucks.