State regulators are about to grant Cemex's Brooksville South Cement Plant permission to begin testing a variety of new fuels to fire its kilns.
On May 7, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued formal notice it would grant the company a permit for the experiment, starting a 14-day clock for anyone who objects to submit a petition for an administrative hearing on the application.
Cemex wants to try burning different items, including 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.
"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.''
The application also lists other advantages to using alternative fuels. It promotes a more diverse energy supply, uses locally generated resources rather than coal from the Appalachian Mountains, promotes related recycling business activities, which creates jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The Brooksville South Cement Plant has two kilns that 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 tires as fuels.
The permit sought by Cemex is for a 24-month trial of only alternative fuels. If the fuels work out and gain the approval of the DEP, Cemex plans to ask for a new construction permit to use the materials long term.
Air emissions have been an issue for Cemex in another recent case.
Late last year, the DEP fined Cemex $525,000 for allowing mercury emissions from the kilns to exceed permitted limits by as much as 10 times. Cemex officials have since said they have 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's absorbed into the environment.