Waste management and Lafarge North America will unveil a US$2m landfill methane fuel system Friday at Lafarge’s Tulsa Cement plant.
This alternative fuel system represents one of three that could hold the fate of the Lafarge plant, according to plant manager Jim Bachmann.
Over the last two months, the companies installed a compressor station and pipeline to deliver methane produced from landfill decay to the cement plant less than two miles away.
Bachmann originally estimated that waste management could supply five per cent of the plant’s annual energy needs.
“When we get into full production, we expect it will get into nine per cent of our total alternative fuel needs,” he said Thursday.
While he didn’t know the methane volume numbers, he said Lafarge was contracted to take at least 80 per cent of Waste Management’s production.
“But to tell you the truth, we’re going to try and take 100 per cent whenever possible,” he said.
This parallels a national movement by Waste Management to find alternative uses for its landfill methane. Last year, the company started construction on 60 landfill plants to convert methane into electricity.
Executives will cut the ribbon to the new Tulsa system around 12:45 p.m. Friday.
One of three cement producers in Oklahoma, the 48-year-old Lafarge plant at Apache and 145th East Avenue made 500,000t last year. With demand in Oklahoma down 15 per cent this year, Bachmann said the plant is operating at 50 percent of capacity, with production expected to total only 300,000t.
The primary reason: continued high energy costs. With its fuel and power costs both up more than 20 per cent last year, Lafarge Group spent US$6m to supply electricity at the plant, matched by US$6m in coal to fire its kilns.
The coal provided about 85 per cent of the plant’s fuel needs, with the remainder coming from scrap tires burned under the state’s waste tyre program. Bachmann said Lafarge burned more than 600,000 discarded tyres last year, and continues at that pace this year.
To replace the coal, Lafarge will file for Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality permits on June 30 to burn low-cost fuel quality waste obtained from fellow Lafarge subsidiary Systech Environmental. With those permits, Lafarge intends to make a US$15m investment to handle processed wastes.
“We’re working with consultants pulling applications together,” he said. “Everything seems to be coming together. It’s a pretty straightforward project, technically, so we expect that we will be able to get this moving forward sometime next year.”
Under current conditions, Bachmann said Lafarge’s Kansas City plant delivers cheaper cement to Oklahoma users than the Tulsa plant can despite the added transportation costs.
“That’s what these alternative fuels projects are all about, lowering the cost of production,” he said.
Bachmann suspects landfill methane would work for any firm burning natural gas.
“There’s really no reason not to pursue landfill gas options like this,” he said. “We just happen to be next to a landfill. It’s coincidence, really. I don’t think anyone really planned it that way. When those kind of synergies exist, you have to go for them.”