Libby boiler project moves forward
Posted in the Noxon Forum
#1 Aug 29, 2012
For nearly a decade, parties have been playing hot potato with the 80,000-pound boiler behind city hall.
The boiler, left behind by Stimson Lumber, Co., when they donated the land to the Port Authority in 2003, was in the hands of a recycled paper manufacturer for several years before a plan to move it to the Carolinas proved unfeasible.
Now, the boiler sits waiting for its new role, an electric generator that could potentially clean up remaining asbestos particulate. Paul Rumelhart, executive director of the Kootenai River Development Council, thinks the boiler could have a huge effect on the community.“We’re trying to generate renewable power and create jobs,” he said.“It’s going to take a lot of work.” The boiler was designed to produce steam, but is now being looked at to see whether it could be retrofitted to produce electricity, potentially from contaminated slash and tree bark. The project is projected to cost $10 million.
The systems exist to contain all particulate from asbestos, said Rumelhart, but more research is needed to be done on how to minimize harm.“We have to be very careful,” he said.“We’re very conscious of that.”
The project is months away from advancing, and many parts have to come into sync for success, but Rumelhart is hopeful. Currently, the project is waiting for a permit approval from the Montana DEQ to approve emissions. When and if that is approved, a public comment period will open up this winter. More details will be finalized at that time. As the plan currently stands, Lincoln County Port Authority and Kootenai Valley Renewable Power are submitting a long-term contract to NorthWestern Energy, a company required to obtain 45 megawatts of power from “Community Renewable Energy Projects.” The boiler will burn biomass products that would otherwise be burned outside or disposed of in landfills. Annually, the boiler could produce 60,000 megawatt hours of power from 100,000 tons of waste wood.“Before we could send that wood to a paper plant in Frenchtown,” Rumelhart said.“Now what do we do with all that?” This waste wood, or slash, could potentially come from any local source, but Rumelhart has hopes it will come from the contaminated Operating Unit Three, OU3, as it is known in shorthand, is 35,000 acres on top of and near the Zonolite mine that has vermiculite in the soil and in the tree bark. As it is a toxic site, far less forest maintenance has been done in it. This leaves it at risk for fire, something unacceptable for Rumelhart.“If a fire happened (in OU3), we could have a Chernobyl incident in Libby,” he said.
The contaminated bark and slash could be transported to Libby in sealed vehicles, burnt in the boiler, and the contaminated ash collected all while producing renewable energy.
If the plan progresses as it is now, 13 full-time jobs at the boiler site would be created, not to mention the jobs to collect an estimated 800,000 tons of slash in OU3.
#2 Sep 2, 2012
Another positive happening in Libby! It will be a bit difficult for Mike and the asbestos doomsayers to spin this to the negative side.
OU3 cleaned up over time. Wow! What a concept! Job creation as well as continuing asbestos cleanup! Way to go KRDC! Let's keep thinking outside the box.
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