Spokesman addresses concerns over proposed biomass plant

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Stink over alternative fuel
Gustaf Andreasen (left) prepares to show Wyandotte City Council members an example of the proposed biomass fuel, waste products like paper and cardboard, which Environmental Generation Technology proposes to use as fuel for the new alternative energy facility. Assistant City Clerk Maria Johnson (second from left), and Councilmen Lawrence Stec and James DeSana listen while Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby Fricke looks at biofuel energy pellet samples.

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — A spokesman for a proposed biomass facility said Monday that it will not be hauling garbage into the city to create fuel.

Gustaf Andreasen, spokesman for Environmental Generation Technology Advisor LLC, told the City Council that a renewable energy plant the company plans to build on city-owned property at 4800 Central Ave. will use refuse-derived fuel in the form of pellets or condensed cubes in lieu of raw waste material.

Refuse-derived fuel is made from solid waste material, primarily comprising paper, plastic and cardboard, Andreasen said. The waste is collected from curbsides, then shredded and dried. It is also treated for odors, if any are present, Andreasen said.

The pellets then are gasified, a process by which carbon-based materials are heated into a gaseous power source consisting mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Andreasen said the process is similar to what happens when waste naturally decomposes.

“What happens at a landfill, (the refuse) sits and generates gas over time,” he said. “We just expedite that process.”

At a December council meeting, members voiced concern that the process could produce more than energy. The company first had looked into the idea of bringing the raw municipal solid waste from other states to the plant for gasification, but council members commented on the possibility of an unpleasant smell. Automotive “fluff,” or nonrecyclable auto parts, also was discussed but was found to be cost-prohibitive.

Under the new proposal, the odorless pellets would be sealed into self-contained silos and gasified, and the entire system would be located inside the facility, Andreasen said. He added that the process has been tested and no odor was found.

“What guarantee do we have that there’s no smell?” Mayor Joseph Peterson asked.

“I guarantee it,” Andreasen replied. “If it smells, you can shut it down.”

Andreasen brought samples of the pellets and the treated waste material that is eventually compressed into cubes for the council to inspect. Councilors sniffed the materials to ensure there was no discernible odor.

The land lease for the project currently does not include the stipulation that refuse-derived fuel is to be used instead of solid waste. Peterson said the project cannot go forward until the stipulation is in writing.

The plan will enable the city to receive federal renewable energy tax credits for buying electricity from the biomass plant. Eight trucks a day are to haul the pellets to the site along city-approved routes.

Councilors also discussed investigating the possibility that grants may be available for using pellets obtained from Michigan-based waste products.

Councilman Todd Browning said he was disappointed that Andreasen had not brought drawings of the proposed plant, and that many of the council’s questions remained unanswered.

Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby Fricke had asked about the possibility of unknown materials also coming in on the trucks without the city to inspect them. Several of her colleagues still were concerned about the possibility that the pellets would smell when gasified. The council discussed visiting a similar plant in Ontario before moving on with the project.

“I would like to be real clear on this,” Browning said. “The only thing I am now is real uncomfortable.”

(Contact Andrea Poteet at apoteet@bewickpublications.com.)