A Texas company wants to build a plant to convert methane to natural gas at the Pine Bend Sanitary Landfill in Inver Grove Heights, replacing another facility that previously turned methane into electricity.

The proposed plant, which is still going through the city approval process, may be the first of its kind in Minnesota, a city official said.

Fortistar, an investment firm that provides capital to build and manage companies that create "green" energy sources, would lease property for the new energy recovery facility from the Pine Bend landfill. The company is also seeking city approval of an associated pipeline.

The Inver Grove Heights Planning Commission has recommended that the city allow the 12,000-square-foot facility. Fortistar needs the city to issue a conditional use permit and amend its zoning ordinance to move forward.

The City Council preliminarily approved the zoning ordinance in late February. The ordinance change and permit will be up for final approval at the April 12 council meeting.

Allan Hunting, Inver Grove Heights' city planner, said he doesn't foresee any challenges to the project getting city approval, and he noted the natural gas produced could be used to power vehicles.

"There's an environmental benefit to it and we think it's a good thing for the city," he said.

Landfills naturally produce methane gas as trash decomposes. The previous facility, which operated from the mid-1990s through 2019, turned methane gas into electricity.

Allen Hunt, vice president of Fortistar, said it doesn't make sense to keep using the old facility or make improvements to it.

"It's old and no longer economical to operate," he said. "It's time to move on."

More details on the project are forthcoming, Hunt said.

In 1991, Inver Grove Heights changed its zoning ordinance to create a special district to give the city more control over how solid waste is used. The ordinance says all uses in that district are only allowed by obtaining special permission through a conditional use permit.

Minnesota-based Wenck Associates is the engineering firm creating the project's site plan, grading plan and stormwater management plan.

The plant would be situated on the western 100 acres of the Pine Bend property. The previous facility was in the property's northwest corner.

The Pine Bend landfill, which at 255 acres is the largest open landfill in Minnesota, is owned by Arizona-based Republic Services, one of the nation's two largest trash firms.

Erin Adler • 612-673-1781