SRS biomass plant nears final testing phase

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The largest federally owned biomass plant in the U.S. could begin providing nearly half of Savannah River Site’s electricity needs by Jan. 10.

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A truck unloads its cargo into a machine that will shred scrap tires to help make steam-generated electricity.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
A truck unloads its cargo into a machine that will shred scrap tires to help make steam-generated electricity.

“We’ve been burning some fuel since September and undergoing a series of performance tests and final checkouts of the system,” said Nicole Bulgarino, an engineer and implementation director for Tennessee-based Ameresco, which has a 20-year, $795 million contract to build and operate the plant.

The unusual steam-generating plant will convert 322,000 tons of fuel per year – about 50 truckloads per day of wood chips and shredded tires – into about 20 megawatts of power.

Ken Chacey, the company’s site manager, said the facility has produced up to 17 megawatts during recent tests, and on Thursday passed a U.S. Department of Energy on-site performance and observation test.

“In all, it’s made a little over 3 million kilowatt hours during a six-week testing period,” he said. “That power was actually used on the site, and was first put into the grid on Nov. 8.”

The fuel sources will include chipped forest products to be procured from within a 50-mile radius of the F Area plant.

The plant will also burn up to 30 percent – or 96,600 tons per year – of finely shredded tires that will be supplied by a separate facility Ameresco is building on 18 acres in nearby Jackson.

The tire processing site should be complete in early 2012 and will require permits administered by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Division of Land Management.

DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick said Ameresco’s per­mit request is being processed, and a public notice with more details about the document could be available on the agency’s Web site as early as next week.

In addition to creating a demand for wood chips, the biomass project is also aimed at reducing air pollution from an aging, coal-fired power plant in the site’s D Area that will be retired as the biomass project reaches full operations.

The coal plant has been operating since the 1950s, and currently emits 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide fumes, 400 tons of particulate pollution and 3,500 tons of sulfur dioxide per year, according to DOE. Those emissions will be eliminated once the coal-fired site is closed.

The construction project, begun in 2009, represents a $150 million outlay by Amer­esco and has employed as many as 800 workers. The com­pleted plant will create about 25 permanent jobs, not including private haulers who bring wood chips to the plant.

BIOMASS FUEL PLANT FACTS

• Design capacity of 240,000 pounds of steam per hour and 20 megawatts of electric power

• Reduction of 400 tons of particulate matter emissions per year that now come from a coal-fired plant

• Reduction of 3,500 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions per year

• Reduction of 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year

• Decrease water intake from the Savannah River by 1.4 billion gallons a year

Source: Ameresco

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Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 01:40 pm
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This article begs for a

This article begs for a little analysis and sanity checking.

Okay, SRS needs to retire an old coal-fired boiler. I get it. And the trendy thing today is "green energy." I concede. But there are untold stories within this news story.

First, let us look at the coal-fired boiler air emissions: 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year; 3,500 tons of sulfure dioxide per year; 400 tons of particulate matter per year

In the gray box up above, ace reporter Rob Pavey tells us there will be reductions in those emissions, but he does not tell us how much those reductions will be! Trees and tires produce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter when they burn. In fact, it could be that there will be net increases of some pollutants when you subsitute fuels.

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 01:39 pm
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From the internet I learned

From the internet I learned that 70% of all rubber used today is synthetic rubber. Tire manufacturers are the world's largest consumers of synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber is a petrochemical that starts with crude oil and also requires large quantities of natural gas to make. Tires require vulcanized synthetic rubber, and the vulcanization process introduces significant amounts of sulfur into the rubber mixture.

When vulcanized rubber is burned in this new boiler at SRS, it will emit that sulfur into the atmosphere in the form of sulfur dioxide — the same form as is emitted by burning coal.

Where is the gain here?

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 01:46 pm
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Rob Pavey wrote: The unusual

Rob Pavey wrote:

The unusual steam-generating plant will convert 322,000 tons of fuel per year – about 50 truckloads per day of wood chips and shredded tires – into about 20 megawatts of power.

I presume the present coal-fired boiler gets its coal delivered by rail car. You may have noticed the coal trains moving from Georgia to South Carolina along Riverwatch Parkway. I don't know how many trainloads go to the 20-megawatt coal-fired boiler at SRS, but I would guess that it is less than one train load per month.

How will the citizens of east Georgia and western South Carolina like trading one trainload a month for 50 truckloads per day? That's a lot of torn-up roads, a lot of diesel fuel burned, a lot of traffic accidents compared to the railroad. Where is the gain here?

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 01:48 pm
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Let's face it guys, 20

Let's face it guys, 20 megawatts is 20 megawatts. If you are going to burn something to make steam, you are going to release carbon dioxide in the combustion process. There is carbon in tires and carbon in wood chips, so if you are going to make 20 megawatts from rubber and wood, it will be comparable carbon dioxide as 20 megawatts from coal.

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 01:54 pm
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Rob Pavey wrote: The plant

Rob Pavey wrote:

The plant will also burn up to 30 percent – or 96,600 tons per year – of finely shredded tires that will be supplied by a separate facility Ameresco is building on 18 acres in nearby Jackson.

There is already a tire recycling plant in the Jackson area (Ridge Recycling). Too bad they couldn't just expand that facility. But that's the government for you. They want to reward some of Obama's cronies. Can anyone check to see if Ameresco contributed to Obama's campaign? Can you smell Solyndra here?

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/18/11 - 10:34 pm
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Let's look at the fuel

Let's look at the fuel totals:

225,400 tons of wood chips per year
+ 96,600 tons of finely-shredded tires per year
- - - - - - -
322,000 total tons of fuel per year

225,400 tons of wood chips will take a lot of trees being cut down across east Georgia and western South Carolina. They will at first come from nearby, but it takes a long time to replace a forest. The loggers and truckers will have to move further and further away to find forests to cut. Watch out for those trucks on our highways and byways.

And, of course, to make 225,000 tons of usable wood chips delivered to SRS, there will be many, many tons of slash left on the ground.

Where is the gain here?

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 03:39 pm
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Now let's examine some

Now let's examine some barakomath. Rob Pavey wrote:

The com­pleted plant will create about 25 permanent jobs, not including private haulers who bring wood chips to the plant.

This power plant is going to replace an existing power plant. So there are going to be 25 new employees for Ameresco, but there will be an unspecified number of current employees no longer needed to work at the dismantled power plant. There will be fewer coal miners, but more loggers. There will be fewer railroad workers, but more truckers. At every stage here, things are less efficient. The jobs "created" are lower-skilled and lower-paid than the ones destroyed.

This is how Democrats do math.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 03:40 pm
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When you take into account

When you take into account the petroleum it takes to manufacture, haul and shred the tires, the petroleum it takes to cut down the trees, saw the wood chips, and haul the wood chips; you will have used more fossil fuels than if you had just burned the coal in the first place.

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 12/16/11 - 07:52 pm
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Thank you for the

Thank you for the information, LL. Seems there is always more to some stories if you know where to look. Most of our AC readers are unaware of this important information, just as I was. I hope you will keep us informed.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 12/16/11 - 08:48 pm
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I guess those tires are
Unpublished

I guess those tires are better suited for the landfill anyway......

robaroo
858
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robaroo 12/16/11 - 08:56 pm
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LL, you are on the right

LL, you are on the right track. It would be willing to bet $10 (not $10k) that nobody looked at the big picture before scoping out the plant.

A few comments - any plant built in the 1950's is wildly inefficient by modern standards, even with upgrades. The tires are scrap tires, so they would go to land fills or recycling centers if they weren't burned. A lot of the wood chips are are also scrap.

"Clean" coal will always be a pipe dream. Even the lowest sulfur coal from Wyoming has a high S content. Finally, it costs some money and petroleum to bury the wastes too.

In an ideal world, natural gas would infinitely plentiful and fusion energy would be practical. In the real world, burning scrap may be the next best thing.

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/16/11 - 09:03 pm
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Notice the "newspeak" that

Notice the "newspeak" that Ameresco is using. They're calling shredded tires biomass. Tires made from synthetic rubber and burned in a boiler is fossil fuel, plain and simple. There's nothing "bio" about it.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 12/16/11 - 09:04 pm
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Hmmm.....20,000,000 tons of
Unpublished

Hmmm.....20,000,000 tons of waste forest products in SC alone....so thats a 1% consumption....LL do you have a vendetta here? How much coal is mined in SC?

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/18/11 - 04:11 pm
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Thank you, robaroo and Young

Thank you, robaroo and Young Fred. I was just hoping to generate some discussion here among the thousands of scientists and engineers in the CSRA. The interest is pretty small, it looks like.

I wish the Chronicle would let some reporters actually investigate deeply into stories such as this, instead of merely regurgitate glossy propaganda from the crony capitalist enterprises of the Obama regime.

That is a pretty picture of the truck above. It would be good to have a caption contest. My first entry would be:

After Evel Knievel's failed attempt to rocket over the Snake River Canyon, the Obama Energy Department has provided the next prototype!

itsanotherday
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itsanotherday 12/18/11 - 10:40 pm
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Dang lady; you know logic has
Unpublished

Dang lady; you know logic has no place in politics or government!

Riverman1
90638
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Riverman1 12/18/11 - 10:54 pm
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Hey, LL, I just saw all the

Hey, LL, I just saw all the work you did on this. Super. I'd keep looking for another use for old tires after reading your comments.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 12/19/11 - 09:55 pm
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The existing powerhouse uses
Unpublished

The existing powerhouse uses 160K tons of coal per year delivered via TRUCK (on average 26 trucks per day at 23.4 tons per truck)....biomass fuel will have 7-8 trucks per hour, on an 8 hour day, 5 days a week... If math serves me, thats 56-64 trucks per day of renewable resources. Data from DOE/EA-1605

Little Lamb
47980
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Little Lamb 12/19/11 - 11:23 pm
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Thank you for responding,

Thank you for responding, Pu239. I live in Augusta and have no relationship to SRS. The way you phrased your response, it seems you merely calculated how many truckloads would be required to supply the 160 tons of coal per year, rather than assert that the coal actually arrives via truck! I hope that some of the people who live near SRS will respond to this post and tell us if they see coal trucks or coal trains delivering coal to SRS.

But, Pu239, even if there are 26 trucks per day arriving at SRS every day, that is half of the projected 50 truckloads per day of wood chips and shredded tires for the new boiler. I hope the residents enjoy the roads around there.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 12/20/11 - 04:52 pm
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LL......read the enviromental
Unpublished

LL......read the enviromental assessment statement that I referenced, DOE/EA 1605....the document states that the coal arrives via truck.

It also answers many of your other questions with regard to how CO2 emissions are calculated and reduced. It also details the reduction of particulate with improved scrubber technology. Add that to 1.4 billion gallon decrease in water use and I think you have a viable option.

Consider that, at a minimum the coal burners will need to be refit, as they are at the end of their lifecycle.

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