By Stew Slater
St. Marys Cement Company will apply to permanently install equipment for the burning of post-recycling plastics as an alternative fuel in its St. Marys kiln.
In the spring of 2011, the company conducted a 35-hour test burn of the fuel using temporary equipment. On Wednesday, Sept. 26, plant manager Natacha Lago, St. Marys Cement Environment Manager Martin Vroegh, and other company representatives were on hand at a public information session at the Pyramid Centre, outlining plans to apply for permanent approval.
“The demonstration (held between May 11-25, 2011) indicated there were no statistically significant changes in stack emissions or ambient air quality when alternative fuel was used,” stated a display board at last week’s info session. “The facility complied with Ministry of the Environment limits at all times.”
During last year’s test burn, about 30 per cent of the conventional Cement Plant fuel — petroleum coke — was replaced by shredded plastic that’s left over from the composting process undertaken by the Orgaworld facility in London. The “residual plastic” — bits of the plastic bags that contained the compostible material collected by Orgaworld — consists of hydrocarbon, compared to the solely carbon make-up of coke. As a result, it releases a combination of carbon dioxide and water when it’s burned, compared to the straight carbon dioxide from the coke.
“The science speaks for itself when it comes to the environmental benefits,” Vroegh told the Journal Argus at the info session. “We know that less carbon in translates into less carbon out.”
The company’s Environment Manager noted that required testing undertaken by independent scientists during last year’s test burn revealed no contraventions of Ministry of the Environment guidelines.
“The demonstration was successful from the standpoint that we had no trouble environmentally, and no problems technically once we got going,” he said.
Last week’s info session was a required step towards applying to the Ministry for permanent installation. The company hopes to submit an application by the end of November. Public input is still being welcomed; visit www.stmaryscement.com to find out more about the proposed project, and email your thoughts or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re hoping (the application process) can be completed, with approvals and having equipment in place, some time late next year,” Vroegh said, when asked about the possible start-up date for the new system, if approved.
Installing the alternative fuel burning system on a permanent basis will require the procurement of somewhere between $1-2 million worth of equipment. Vroegh says the range between the potential top and bottom price is so high because it hasn’t yet been determined how extensive the system will be. For example, the company could decide to construct two truck unloading stations instead of just one; or it could decide to broaden the capabilities of the system to handle alternative fuels that are similar, but necessarily identical, to the Orgaworld product.
Information posters on display at last week’s session stated that, once the proposed system is installed, “up to 10 trucks a day would deliver the fuel to the plant in enclosed trailers — replacing some of the trucks that currently haul conventional fuel . . . (and) up to 500 tonnes of fuel could be stored at the plant, enough to make sure that there is enough fuel on-hand for long weekends and holiday.”
Vroegh said some cement plants in Quebec have invested as much as $12 million in alternative fuel burning systems, but that’s in an province with strong government subsidies. Those financial supports don’t exist in Ontario for this type of investment, but he says the company remains committed to “being an pioneer in this province” for cutting down on the emission of carbon dioxide by the cement industry.
He’s not critical, though, of the lack of financial support from the Ontario government. “We just need the support in the regulatory environment, and that has been happening.”