Owensboro utilities firm seeks state grant to burn used tires


OWENSBORO, Ky., Sept. 29, 2000 (Messenger-Inquirer)—Owensboro Municipal Utilities is still interested in burning used tires in its No. 1 boiler at the Elmer Smith Station power plant, but it wants a lot of financial help from the state.

On Wednesday, the City Utility Commission gave OMU permission to request a $424,000 state grant. The money would pay for most of the design and construction of a fuel blending system that would allow for the uniform blending of “tire-derived fuel” with other fuels.

OMU’s share of the cost would be nearly $160,000. OMU intends to shoulder that much of the cost because the system will handle more than just waste tires.

OMU General Manager Bob Carper said the utility wants to burn tires, but at no cost to ratepayers.

“It had to be cost-neutral to OMU,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the state.”

Without the state grant, the issue of burning tires at OMU would be dead, said Jim Roberts, the utility’s superintendent of fuels and byproducts.

“If we get the grant, we will start construction (of the blending system) this fall,” Roberts said. “It will take two months to build the system. We could possibly burn tires this year.”

OMU should learn next month if it will receive the grant. The state has been setting aside $1 for every tire replaced in the state to develop a market for used tires. Money from that fund will be used to build the blending system at the Elmer Smith Station.

Compared to the amount of coal burned at the plant, the amount of tires that will be consumed will be small. The mixture burned will be 2 percent tires and 98 percent coal.

Even at that small percentage, OMU will be able to burn 2,800 car tires a day, Roberts said, which is the equivalent of 28 tons. Over a year, that will add up to 1,022,000 tires. And that is about one-third of all the waste tires generated in Kentucky each year.

Since 1997, OMU has done three test burns of tires. Burning tires at a 2 percent rate does no harm to the plant’s wet limestone scrubber system. At the same time, tire chunks of about one-inch are less expensive than coal and burn hotter, making them an excellent fuel.

The blending system will also allow OMU to burn ground coal “fines” that it buys from various suppliers and petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil refining process. Both do well when mixed with regular coal in the Elmer Smith boiler.

“The state doesn’t want to be responsible for the cost of blending other fuels, only TDF,” Roberts said, which accounts for OMU’s decision to pay for a portion of the system.

OMU had intended to be burning tires on a daily basis by now, but it took time to get the proper state permit making the Elmer Smith Station an official waste-to-energy facility — the only one in Kentucky. More time was spent in negotiating how much money OMU would receive from the state, Roberts said.

If it happens, total cost for the blending system will be $584,000. Dirt work, concrete, foundations and fire hydrant work will be done by low bidder A&M United Inc. for about $180,000. Thelen Resources bid $63,000 for a TDF screw feeder. Baker Bohnert bid $93,000 for conveyor belting, two chain conveyors and TDF and other fuel hoppers. Cork Equipment and Construction Co. was selected to install and construct the system for $247,477.

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© 2000, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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