BROOKSVILLE — From corn husks and peanut hulls to carpets and roofing shingles, the owners of Cemex's Brooksville South Cement Plant are seeking state permission to test a variety of alternative fuels to run their operation.
Cemex Construction Materials Florida LLC has applied to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a short-term trial testing of a list of alternative products the company wants to burn to operate the plant's cement kilns.
The list includes plastic agricultural film; agricultural waste such as animal bedding, citrus peels and rice hulls; carpet-derived fuel; woody biomass; roofing shingles; paper; and tire-derived fuel.
Emissions have been an issue at the Brooksville South Cement Plant previously.
Late last year, the DEP slapped the firm with a $525,000 fine for allowing mercury emissions from the kilns at the plant that exceeded permitted limits by as much as 10 times. Cemex officials say they have made changes in their process and fixed the problem.
Mercury, which can cause neurological problems, is found in the raw materials used in the kilns and escapes after the firing process through the smokestacks. From there it is absorbed into the environment.
The company is optimistic about the potential of the new fuel.
"These recovered materials are requested similar to other recent applications for materials that can supplant conventional fossil fuel and raw materials,'' wrote Kyle G. Ulmer of Koogler and Associates Inc., in the Cemex application.
"These materials, while new to the experience of the cement plants in Florida, are used in other cement kilns throughout the U.S. and the world,'' he wrote.
Koogler and Associates is a Gainesville firm that provides engineering and consulting services to industries in matters related to air quality management, air pollution control and environmental permitting, according to the firm's website.
Other benefits to the plan, according to the Cemex application, include promoting a more diverse energy supply, using locally generated resources rather than coal from the Appalachian Mountains, promoting related recycling business activities, which creates jobs, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Brooksville South Cement Plant has two kilns that together produce about 2 million tons per year. Kiln No. 2 is the focus of the application. Currently, the permit for the kiln allows the use of coal, natural gas, petroleum, coke, propane, fuel oil, other used oil, fly ash and whole tires as fuels.
Cemex is seeking permission for a 24-month period to conduct feasibility studies of the alternative fuels. If the materials tested are feasible and acceptable to the DEP, Cemex plans to seek a new construction permit to use the materials long term.
The current application only deals with the short-term trial, however.
"It should be stressed that this permit is requesting to only allow short-term trials of these materials in order to evaluate their effectiveness in the process,'' according to the application.
The application also notes that, if use of any material results in emissions exceeding the current permitted limits, the use will be immediately stopped.
Tires as a fuel have been used at the cement plant for a while, said Michael McHugh, county business development manager who had previously worked at the plant. He said the tires were a very efficient fuel and that, despite public perception that they burn and cause air emissions, the tires actually vaporize in the burning process.
One ton of tires, McHugh said, equals 1 ton of coal.
Cemex plant manager Jim Daniel said the effort to find other alternatives was a responsible thing for the company to do.
"The use of alternative fuels for energy recovery is a major benefit to all parties, the company, the state of Florida, and the community,'' he said. "Cemex's effort to permit and utilize alternative fuels is part of the company's overall sustainability objectives.
"It will help us further reduce overall CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, and it fully supports the state of Florida's solid waste management program's goal to reduce landfill disposal,'' Daniel said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.