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Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011 12:15 am | Updated: 10:55 pm, Sun Jun 19, 2011.

Lehigh Cement Co. to test alternative engineered fuel plan By Carrie Ann Knauer, Times Staff Writer Carroll County Times | 2 comments
Lehigh Cement Co. in Union Bridge is planning to experiment with an engineered fuel made from waste materials as a way to reduce its coal consumption, though some county residents aren't happy about the plans.
The company was granted approval for a three-month test using engineered fuel by the Maryland Department of the Environment in April, said Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the MDE. But VEXOR Technology, the supplier of the engineered fuel, is still working on sourcing the materials to blend the fuel, said Kurt Deery, environmental engineer for Lehigh, so it is unknown when testing will begin. Plant manager Kent Martin said the engineered fuel will be made of waste products, such as health and beauty products, waste grease, spill and cleanup debris, agricultural materials, sawdust and biosolids.
"We're really excited with it," Martin said. "Versus coal, engineered fuel is greener, it's cleaner and it's renewable."
Lehigh has given the vendor-detailed specifications for the chemical and physical requirements of its fuel, he said, so they have no doubt that it will be able to achieve the heat they need for the cement-making process.
In addition, the company believes the engineered fuel will create less air pollution than the coal, particularly from mercury.
"Under the specs that Lehigh has set, the engineered fuel is to be cleaner than coal," Apperson said. "That's the principal reason we are allowing the test burn."
According to documents from the MDE, the average mercury content in Lehigh's coal is 0.19 parts per million. Lehigh is requiring that the engineered fuel have a maximum mercury content of 0.05 ppm. Plans to substitute 50 percent of coal usage with engineered fuel could significantly decrease the company's mercury output.
This isn't the first time Lehigh has experimented with alternative fuels. Before the company built the new cement kiln, which was completed in 2001, it used tires to offset its coal usage, Martin said. It also experimented with cocoa bean shells when the new plant opened, though that was before he started at the Union Bridge plant. Neither of these materials is currently used.
The plant does use biosolids, or processed and dried sludge, as a fuel, which has been quite successful, Martin said.
"The only drawback would be that we can't get enough of the material," he said of the biosolids.
And they're not sure when they will get their first delivery of engineered fuel either, Deery said.
"We have a three-month approval from air quality and waste management [departments of MDE] stipulating that the trial will begin when the first truck enters the plant, and that hasn't happened yet," he said.
The company also has to build a temporary storage building for the engineered fuel, Deery said. But if Lehigh gets a full permit to use engineered fuel, it will construct a more specific building to store the material.
Once the trial ends, MDE will review data collected and conduct a formal process to determine whether to grant a final permit. The process will probably take six to eight months, Deery said, and will include a public hearing, similar to the process used when the company applied for the permit to burn biosolids.
While Lehigh is enthusiastic about this new venture, some community members aren't.
Union Bridge-area resident Judy Smith said she is concerned that the health aspects of burning these waste products are unknown, and could be potentially dangerous. These trash products, while technically labeled as non-hazardous waste, still contain chemicals that will be released in the air when burned, she said.
"It does not disappear, it changes form and there are absolutely no tests for health risks, especially when you consider that these are combined with other things for which there are no tests," Smith said. "A lot more research into what happens with combustion and gas needs to be done before this should be part of Carroll County and a business that will get paid big bucks to be an incinerator."
According to documents from the MDE, the company must do extensive monitoring of air emissions as required by the Air and Radiation Management Administration. Lehigh must continuously monitor nitrous oxide emissions, and monitor the sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic carbons released during the test burn.
Don West, of the group Waste Not! Carroll, said he is concerned that the MDE doesn't have enough experience regulating engineered fuel, and since its components are coming from so many sources, Lehigh won't even know what it will be burning.
"Another concern is that this will be the first step in Lehigh eventually burning our own municipal solid waste," he said. "I guess we won't need the incinerator in Frederick County if we can have one here in Carroll of our own."
Lehigh has been stressing that the engineered fuel is environmentally friendly, consistent with the governor's push for green energy and his signing of legislation this year that made trash a Tier 1 Renewable Energy, allowing it the same tax credits as wind and solar. But Waste Not! disagrees with the logic in that designation.
"Trash is not renewable - it consists of discarded materials like paper, plastic and glass that are derived from finite natural resources that are being depleted at unsustainable rates," West said. "Burning these materials creates a demand for ‘waste' and discourages much-needed efforts to conserve our resources and encourage recycling and composting."
Martin said the Union Bridge plant has no plans for burning direct municipal solid waste and that he is unaware of any cement plant that burns unsorted municipal solid waste. On the other hand, many cement kilns in Europe, including some owned by Lehigh's parent company, have been using engineered fuel for years.
Martin said Lehigh has been giving presentations to community groups and government officials to clear up misconceptions about the use of engineered fuel.
"We've offered invites to anyone who had any concerns, please come to the plant and let us communicate what it is we're looking at, because it's a good initiative," Martin said. "It's good for the environment, it's good for the company, it's going to reduce materials that could otherwise be landfilled - it's a very, very good program."