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Manatee County studies methane production at landfill

County staff are exploring natural gas from its landfill as an energy source. Tax credits and deals with private utility companies could cover the cost of a project.

The project would convert natural gas from the landfill into renewable natural gas.
The project would convert natural gas from the landfill into renewable natural gas.
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Manatee County commissioners are pondering the possibility of converting natural gas produced by its landfill into methane that the county can either keep for its own purposes or sell to a number of interested buyers.

Utilities Director Evan Pilachowski said possible buyers who have expressed interest include ENGIE, Johnson Controls, Nopetro, Energy Systems Group, Pine Creek RNG, and Terreva Renewables.

The natural gas at the landfill is created through the decomposition of landfill waste and would be drawn out from “wells” beneath the landfill and then would enter a process to remove all components, except methane, qualifying it as renewable natural gas.

Pilachowski told commissioners that the methane could be pumped into a natural gas pipeline network that would need to be constructed. The methane could be used to power county vehicles or for other purposes.

Or it could be sold. 

He said as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which states the federal government’s desire to invest in domestic energy production while promoting clean energy, the county would receive tax credits as a result of producing the methane.

Commissioners said they need more information on the process and its cost before making any decisions. 

Jacob Erickson, a purchasing official with Manatee County, said staff members would evaluate proposals and present more information to the commissioner.

Currently, Manatee County burns off the landfill gas to prevent any safety issues it would pose. A small percentage of the gas produced by the landfill is used in the Southeast Water Reclamation Facility for drying biosolids, Pilachowski said, as well as being used for heating for a grease boiler that accepts waste.

He said the ability to pump natural gas into a pipeline would require an agreement with a natural gas utility company. However, he said the project can proceed without a pipeline connection by compressing the gas and utilizing it in county vehicles or energy production.

This would not be the first such project in Florida.

Pilachowski said a project at the New River Solid Waste Association in Union County is the most recent example of converting natural gas to methane.

He said that site spent about $20 million to convert the natural gas to methane. 

If the county can get the project under construction by the end of 2024, PIlachowski said, tax credits will cover between 30% and 50% of the cost of the project.

Commissioner George Kruse said some companies have offered to build the plant at their cost.

Pilachowski said staff members would present more information to commissioners after researching financing possibilities.

Kruse said he met with possible vendors last year.

“If we’re going to treat government like a business like we say we are, we need to look for revenue streams where they don’t currently exist. We need to be flexible to help provide services. 

“This is a situation where we effectively have money being flared off which we’re not utilizing.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is a reporter for the East County Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands. You will find Ian at everything from Music on Main in Lakewood Ranch to Manatee County Commission meetings.

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