Pellet Permit: Biomass plant’s new owner wants to burn different fuel

JAN 14, 2019 | Joshua Vissers | The Daily Mining Gazette

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK), are concerned that new fuel pellets could bring new toxicity to the air in L’Anse.

The L’Anse Warden Plant has applied for a new permit to burn engineered fuel pellets, which the state of Michigan considers a renewable fuel.

“It’s all made from industrial byproducts that would otherwise go to the landfill,” Ted Hansen said.

Hansen is the CEO of Convergen Energy, the Warden plant’s owner. They bought the facility from Traxys in 2016, after a biomass conversion that was fraught with issues. Those issues were resolved as part of the purchase agreement.

“We bought this plant with our eyes wide open,” Hansen said.

The Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) have been following the activities of the plant since 2013, according to FOLK board member Catherine Andrews. The group has been concerned about the particulate matter and gases released by the plant and the effect on the local community.

Andrews thinks if the plant is making changes again, it should go back to natural gas.

“It would just be a lot cleaner all around,” she said.

When the plant first converted to biomass, the blower system used to transport pulverized railroad ties spread pentachlorophenol-laced wood dust around the village of L’Anse.

“Acute inhalation exposures in humans have resulted in neurological, blood and liver effects, and eye irritation,” a fact sheet about pentachlorophenol released in 2000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reads.

Before the last sale of the power plant to Convergen, use of railroad ties with pentachlorophenol was ceased, as was the use of the blower system.

“They have made some positive changes, and I don’t want to diminish that,” Andrews said.

The plant still burns creosote railroad ties and tire-based fuels, but they are brought to the plant from the fuel yard by truck, according to Hansen.

The new fuel pellets have been test-burned at the plant for the last year, under a permit from the DEQ.

Now Convergen is applying for a long-term permit to burn the new fuel pellets regularly, but FOLK have concerns with some of the testing results.

DEQ analysis shows an increase in nitrogen oxides, which can react with other substances to form harmful acids and complicate bronchitis and emphysema according to the EPA.

Hansen said that the amount of nitrogen oxides will actually decrease, saying that the DEQ testing assumes the worst-case scenario and that stack-monitoring during the testing shows a reduction in nitrogen oxides.

FOLK is still encouraging the public to weigh in on the permit application.

In cooperation with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, FOLK is showing “Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?”, a movie about biomass fuels that in part features the L’Anse Warden Plant. It’s scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Ojibwe Senior Center, 208 Main St., in Baraga.

An informational session and public hearing has been scheduled at the L’Anse Area Schools cafeteria for Jan. 23 by the DEQ.

The informational session is at 5:30 p.m. with the public hearing to follow at 7 p.m.

Tomorrow: What Convergen says about the new fuel pellets.

via Pellet Permit: Biomass plant’s new owner wants to burn different fuel | News, Sports, Jobs – The Mining Gazette

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