Posts

Lack of Baghouse Maintenance Leads to Heavy Fines For Wood Pellet Manufacturer

, ,

Athens, Maine, USA – Violations regarding the operation and maintenance of a Baghouse have led to heavy fines of over $30,000 being imposed to a wood processing plant in Athens, Maine. The fines were issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The fines were issued to the plant for violating terms of their state air emissions permit. The plant was found to be operating its Baghouse without having replaced a number of Baghouse Filters that had been damaged/destroyed in a recent fire. The plant also was found to be exceeding limits for particulate matter emissions, due to improper

In addition to issues relating to the dust collection system, the plant also was cited for not maintaining an operational wet-scrubber, maintaining required logs of operating hours, and exceeding the limit for propane usage. They were also cited for failure to report the Baghouse fire indecent that had previously damaged the Baghouse and its filters, and that the wet-scrubber system had experienced a service outage.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is the state agency charged with enforcing Maine’s environmental laws.

According to the monthly enforcement report, issued in March 2011,  Maine Woods Pellets will pay the fine in monthly installments after it did not correctly operate its air pollution systems.

 
 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

U.S. Congress to Force OSHA to Issue Combustible Dust Safety Standards

, ,
Aftermath of a dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar Plant

Dominick DalSanto
Environmental & Dust Collection Technologies Expert & Author
Baghouse.com

On February 7th 2009 an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia kill 14 workers, injured dozens more, and resulted in millions of dollars worth of damages. What was the source of this horrifically powerful industrial explosion that took over a dozen lives and completely destroyed an entire factory? Was it some exotic chemical substance that was being used as part of some industrial process?

This devastating explosion was fueled by nothing other than a simple accumulation of otherwise harmless sugar dust.

In an industrial setting otherwise benign substances such as flour, corn, sugar, metals, or wood, can accumulate. When exposed to an ignition source these can lead to immensely powerful explosions.

Bowing to concerns over a lack of standardize federal safety regulations in this area, members of the U.S. Congress have recently taken steps to combat this danger.

Congress Attempts to Force OSHA’s Hand in Setting Combustible Dust Standards

Photo of the U.S. Capital building. Where the U.S. Congress is looking to pass legislation to force OSHA to set a comprehensive combustible dust standards and safety regulations

U.S. Congress is looking to pass legislation to force OSHA to set a comprehensive combustible dust standards and safety regulations

U.S. Congress is looking to pass legislation to force OSHA to set a comprehensive combustible dust standards and safety regulations “]
With such a large amount of deaths, injuries, and property damage being caused each year by combustible dust related fires and explosions, lawmakers are looking to draft legislation to provide safety standards for operations where the danger of combustible dusts exists

Recently three members of the U.S. Congress, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), reintroduced legislation  concerning combustible industrial dusts. The Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act, would force OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to set definitive standard

s regarding hazardous levels of combustible dust like coal, sugar, or metals dust in industry. This will accelerate efforts that are already in motion by OSHA. However the forthcoming OSHA standards are expected to take at least 4 years before codification and total implementation takes place.

Rep. Miller, who is a leading member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, commented that although he commends OSHA for beginning to take the initial steps to address this hazard, he feels that because of bureaucratic “red tape”, workers that are exposed to these hazards will not be fully protected for years. “While some industries have taken steps to address these hazards, workers are still being killed and injured from preventable combustible dust explosions. Regulatory delays should never be an excuse not to protect workers from a preventable tragedy” stated Miller.

CSB Makes Recommendations, But Finds no Comprehensive OSHA Standards for Combustible Dust

The governmental agency charged with investigating industrial incidents of this kind is the Chemical Safety Board. The CSB while charged with investigating industrial incidents, does not have the authority to issue regulations. Instead the agency merely issues reports details the causes of any particular incident, and then makes recommendations on how to avoid having a repeat incident.

Following a series of dust explosions, in 2006 the CSB undertook a thorough study of combustible dust hazards in industry. The CSB found that despite being a well-known industry hazard, there was no comprehensive set OSHA standards covering combustible dust hazards. In view of the immense danger to live and property that combustible dust hazards pose, the CSB recommended that OSHA begin work immediately to issue a comprehensive set of standards in this area.

In an industrial setting, dust can accumulate on areas such as floors near dust sources, and elevated spaces such as ceiling rafters/trusses, on the tops of machinery and shelving. Even accumulations of less than one inch can pose a great danger. Often times an initial explosion or fire  can take place which is quite small and localized, such as within a dust collector or related ductwork. However the resulting shockwave, even though it might be relatively small can then disperse or aerosolize larger deposits of accumulated dust which then will fuel a much larger secondary explosion, which can then propagate throughout the entire facility, causing massive destruction of property, and loss of life.

Between 1980 and 2005 combustible dust explosions killed at least 119 people, injured 718 and resulted in millions of dollars in damage in the U.S. alone. In the UK government statistics show that on average one death per week is caused by combustible dust explosions.

Dust Combustible Dust Safety Standards, Why So long in the Making?

With decades of documented cases of violent conflagrations caused by accumulation of combustible dusts, many are asking ask why has OSHA been so slow in issuing safety standards? No doubt a mixture of bureaucratic red tape, preoccupation with other so called “more pressing matters” and a general sense of complacency have all contributed.

However those affected by these terrible accidents want to see that others are not at risk to suffer the same way they have. “We know that standards OSHA has established in other areas have saved thousands of lives,” says Woolsey. “Workers need a standard on combustible dust, and they need it now.” Rep. Barrow added “This legislation will finally provide our nation’s factory workers with the protections they deserve.”

It appears now however that due in part increased activism, combustible dust hazards are being brought to the forefront of industrial safety as well as public attention. * See CBS 60 Minutes Highlights The Dangers of Dust Explosions

Now with new legislation being put forth, and at least partial self-regulating on the part of industry, it seems that progress is being made to give the needed attention to this serious industrial hazard.

 

 

What Can Be Done Now to Avoid Dust Explosions?

Explosions caused by combustible dust, are most often the result of neglecting to recognizing the dangers involved with combustible dust. Being aware of the danger accumulated dust poses is the first step in preventing a violent conflagration from taking place.

In general, there a few keys to safeguarding a plant from these dangers:

Good house-keeping practices throughout the facility – This would including cleaning up any large accumulations of dust, especially accumulations on elevated sites such as ceiling trusses or rafters, on top of storage shelving, and machinery.

Employing a dust collection system – The dust collector or Baghouse, will need to be sufficiently sized to handle the dust loads of the facility. Additionally, the correct type of Baghouse, Baghouse filters, and cleaning mechanism are all vital to ensure adequate collection operation throughout the entire facility. Ductwork design, and installation also play a vital role in ensuring that there are a sufficient amount of collection points throughout the facility in all dust producing areas. Also even the best dust collection system will be worthless if it is operated improperly, or left in a state disrepair due to in adequate maintenance.

Adequate knowledge of dust characteristics – It is vital that each kind of dust present be identified and their individual characteristics be understood. Many companies exist that will perform testing to determine the combustibility and other characteristics of any compound produced at a given site. This information is required to formulate a comprehensive dust control plan for the facility. This information also comes into play when selecting an appropriate dust collector system, filters, and installation and implementation.

Further more extensive information on how to prevent dust explosions can be found here on Baghouse.com in the article: The Potential for Dust Explosions in Dust Collection Systems.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

U.S. Manufacturing Up 4% – Industry Execs Say Looking To Expand In 2011

,

By Dominick DalSanto
Environmental Technologies Expert & Author
Baghouse.com

Recently published reports are showing an increasingly positive outlook for the future of the U.S. manufacturing field. A reported 91% of management at U.S. manufacturers say that they outlook is significantly more optimistic than it was in the previous quarter. In addition nearly 60% believe that the economy will see improvement in the next six months. Both of these figures are up 10% and 11% respectively from those gathered three months ago.

These figures coincides with recently released data that shows that the U.S. manufacturing sector has grown at an annual rate of 4% in the fourth quarter of 2010 after having experienced a third quarter peak of 4.3%. This is in excess of the previous business cycle peak reached in the fourth quarter of 2007. Forecasts are calling for a 5.5% increase in 2011 and 4.4% to be seen in 2012.

While these figures demonstrate the overall positive outlook shared by most in the industry, there still remains some pessimism regarding the long term direction of U.S. manufacturing. This is shown by the fact that despite having a positive outlook, only 44% of those surveyed said they plan on increasing hiring in the next six months.

Rather than hiring more staff, companies are focusing on increasing investment in equipment and technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

One executive at Grant Thorton, stated that the reason for not pursuing increasing hiring is because in general the industry is feeling uncertain about the direction of U.S. policy regarding manufacturing. “These executives believe that the United States government has no battle plan to make American manufacturing more competitive in order to create more good-paying jobs. In fact, to the contrary, they believe Washington has created a climate that has made American manufacturers less competitive over the years.

A industry trade association, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has even put forth suggestions on how to increase the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing on the global scene. Among calling for reduced governmental spending over tax increases, the group has released a “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America” that offers a list of recommended actions to help U.S. industry. A few from among the long list of suggestions are:

  • See a reduction in the tax burden, allowing for a more competitive structure – The U.S. currently has second highest statutory tax rate among the major industrial countries (Japan has the highest rate but has proposed a reduction, leaving the U.S. with the highest statutory rate).
  • Cease the increase in federal mandates and labor regulations that increase employment expenses.
  • Reform of the U.S. legal system (collectively known as Tort reform) reducing its economic impact. In the United States, the costs of direct tort litigation represent nearly 2% of the GDP – the highest rate in the world.
  • Create tax incentives that stimulate investment. One cited example is to increase the current R&D tax credit rate, and make it permanent.
  • Reduce trade barriers to U.S. exports. This would include enacting certain international agreements that are currently pending before U.S. lawmakers.
  • Enact comprehensive health care legislation that would reduce costs, both for employers and the public in general.

The group is optimistic that the Obama administration will work to implement many of the key points of the strategy. “Based on my discussions with manufacturing executives, they support NAM’s strategy, but are skeptical that the current administration will act on their recommendations,” concluded Gruenes.

U.S. manufacturers are looking to capitalize on the recent improvements in the national economy by reducing operating costs, and improving production efficiency. Increasing investment in equipment and new technologies by companies, means there is a large potential for increases in the dust collection market. This is providing dust collector manufacturers and service providers with the opportunity to present the economic benefits of dust collection systems improvements.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

Would We Have Clean Air Without Governmental Regulation?

, ,
U.S. Environmental Legislation has come under attack from many different groups recently

Editorial By Dominick DalSanto
Environmental Technologies Expert & Author
Baghouse.com

With recent battles on Capital Hill in Washington D.C. regarding the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) increasing impact on the nation’s economy, many questions are being raised as to the effectiveness of governments having a active role in environmental affairs.

One particularly interesting, and controversial question that has been raised by some is: What would our world’s air quality be without governmental environmental regulation?

Opponents of tougher emissions regulations, and environmental regulations in general, are beginning to question whether government agencies like the EPA are really needed at all.

Conservatives Weigh in on EPA Claims

Recently a conservative think tank organization named the Heritage Foundation, released a report claiming that had the U.S. Clean Air Act never been passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970, industry itself would eventually have taken steps to correct the nation’s growing environmental problems, in part due to technological advancements, and corporate ethics.

A direct quote from the report states:

It is simply preposterous to assume that air quality would worsen unabated over the course of 30 years in the absence of a particular statute. History has proven otherwise, of course. Long before the original CAA [Clean Air Act] was enacted in 1963, industrial emissions were declining as a result of technological advances and efficiency improvements. And both factors, as well as others, will continue to drive environmental improvements regardless of regulation

The paper also claims that by 1970, emissions were already declining on their own, before the first governmental clean air legislation came into effect. This they claim proves that the EPA and similar governmental regulatory bodies similar to it, are not necessary. They claim they only hurt industry and therefore the economies of their respective nations, by requiring new technologies to be installed, and issuing fines for violations.

Additionally, the Heritage Foundation claims that the estimates found in the EPA’s report to Congress are grossly inaccurate, lack any reasonable way to verify its claims, and even admits that its statistics and figures cannot be verified.

The EPA report states that in 2010 the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 resulted in approximately $1.3 trillion in public health and environmental benefits, for a cost of only $50 billion. That’s a value worth more than 9% of GDP, for a cost of only .4% of GDP. And that in 2020  that figure will increase to approximately $2 trillion in benefits, at a cost of $65 billion. That’s a value worth more than 14% of today’s GDP, for an expenditure of only .46%. The ratio of benefits to cost is more than 30 to 1.

 

Environmentalists Strike Back

Air Pollution Trends and rates over the course of the last hundred years

Proponents of the Clean Air Act, and similar environmental regulations, point to air pollution rates such as shown here, to prove that the CCA has succeeded in reducing air pollution since then 1970s.

In short order, dozens of environmentalist organizations, and activists have attacked the conclusions of the Heritage Foundations report. One such article from Switchboard.nrdc.org which is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental activist organization, alleges that the Heritage Foundations accusations are completely baseless. They counter that the conclusions of the Heritage Foundation are contradictory in nature, and the product of the industrial sector and right-wing political agenda.

For example the Heritage Foundation article comments that it believes that the EPA estimates are incorrect because the claims made in the report allegedly can not be corroborated. The NRDC article counters that the EPA report is in fact the product of extensive peer-review, and that the Heritage Foundation article’s only source is “a report from one non peer-reviewed study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free market think tank that, according to IRS data, is funded almost exclusively by corporate and conservative foundations (e.g. oil giants ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers). When asked by Detroit’s Metro Times in 1996 on funding sources, the Center’s President Lawrence Reed said: “Our funding sources are primarily foundations … with the rest coming from corporations and individuals,” but that “… revealing our contributors would be a tremendous diversion…”

Are Emissions Regulations Really Required?

The facts are undeniable that with stricter environmental/emissions standards has come cleaner air for all. To try and say that these regulations are not needed, and that companies, and industry in general will act to reduce the environmental damage they are inflicting on our earth is simply willful blindness. That conclusion ignores a fundamental truth about business and human nature in general; namely that profits come first, every time.

This is not meant to imply that seeking profits first is inherently unethical in some way. In fact the point of any business venture is to gain profit. Nor does this mean that there are not companies that do place a high value on environmental responsibility. Neither does it mean that governmental regulation and legislation are without flaws, or that they are only force that is working towards reducing pollution. However, even in today’s world with increasing attention being given to environmental issues by the public at large, the largest motivating factor for industry in general to reduce its environmental footprint remains the financial benefit.

For us in the dust collection industry, this means that sales efforts always need to remain focused on presenting how our dust collectors, Baghouses, and other pollution control technologies will result in savings/increased profits for the customer.

 

Sources:

http://www.heritage.org/government-regulation/report/coming-clean-regulatory-costs-and-benefits#_ftn1

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ljohnson/the_heritage_foundations_criti_1.html

 

What Do You Think?

We would love to hear your comments on this subject. Please leave your comments below, and share in the discussion.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

EPA sets new Clean Air Act Regulations for Boilers and Incinerators

,

Revised standards will bring dramatic benefits to public health, and cost nearly 50% less than initial proposals

By Dominick DalSanto
Environmental Technology Expert & Author
Baghouse.com

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final set of Clean Air Act standards for boilers and incinerators. The new standards will lead to a reduction of harmful emissions including mercury, and soot from this equipment. Recently federal court orders had charge the agency with the task of issuing final standards ahead of its proposed date. The new set of standards are expected to cost approximately 50 percent less to implement than the original proposal.

The court’s directive from September 2009 led to the EPA issuing a proposal of new standards in April 2010. The court case struck down a set of industry standards that had been proposed and adopted during the Bush administration. After receiving much public input, the EPA made substantial changes and was granted an additional 30 days by the court in December 2010 to implement as much as the public’s input as possible.

The proposed public health benefits for this plan are quite extensive. Exposure to emissions of mercury, soot and several other harmful compounds are very damaging to humans. These pollutants aggravate preexisting conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and asthma, and are especially hard on children, even causing developmental disabilities in some. The EPA estimates that between 2,600 to 6,600 premature deaths will be avoided along with 4,100 heart attacks, and 42,000 asthma attacks.

Much of the public comment on the proposed set of regulations involved the initially high cost of implementation. However, the newly revised standards represent a dramatic cut in the cost of implementation, while maintaining maximum public health benefits. As a result, EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to cut these pollutants, the public will see between $10 to $24 in health benefits, including fewer premature deaths.

Over 4,800 comments were received from both industry, and communities throughout the United States. This included a substantial amount of new information from industrial sources that had previously not been considered. In addition, President Obama recently issued an executive order that called on the EPA to reform its regulatory review process to ensure maximum protection for public health, while not unattainable burdens upon industry. Based on these factors, the EPA revised the proposed, standards, to provide addition flexibility and cost effective techniques – achieving significant pollution reduction and important health benefits, while lowering the cost of pollution control installation and maintenance by about 50 percent, or $1.8 billion.

Details of the new EPA Clean Air Act Standards for Incinerators, and Boilers

Industrial Boiler emissions are include mercury, soot, and ozone.

Emissions from industrial boilers now must conform to EPA emission standards. This includes installing pollution control technologies such as Dust Collectors, and Air Scrubbers to remove harmful compounds from the air.

Several different kinds of boiler and incinerator equipment are covered by the new EPA regulations, including:

  • Boilers used at heavy emissions sources: The approximately 13,800 boilers located at large sources of harmful emissions including chemical manufacturing plants, oil refineries, and similar industrial locations. These standards will reduce the emissions of harmful pollutants at these sources including: mercury, organic air toxins, and dioxins. Estimates for the cost of implementing these new standards in this sector are now $1.5 billion lower than the initial projected cost. Health benefits associated with reduced exposure to these harmful compounds, fine particles, and ozone are projected to save between $22 billion to $54 billion in 2014.
  • Boilers at light emissions sources: There are about 187,000 boilers located at small sources of air pollutants, including universities, hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings that may be covered by these standards. Due to the small amount of emissions these sources are responsible for, EPA has limited the impact of the final rule making on small entities. The original standards for these have been dramatically refined and updated to ensure maximum flexibility for these sources, including for some sources, revising the requirement from maximum achievable control technology to generally available control technology. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $209 million.
  • Solid waste incinerators: There are approximately 88 solid waste incinerators are employed in commercial or industrial settings. These include those used in cement manufacturing facilities. These standards, which facilities will need to meet by 2016 at the latest, will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution. The cost reduction from the proposed standard to the final is estimated to be $12 million.

In separate but related actions, EPA is finalizing emission standards for sewage sludge incinerators. While there are more than 200 sewage sludge incinerators across the country, EPA expects that over 150 are already in compliance. These standards will reduce emissions of harmful pollutants including mercury, lead, cadmium, and hydrogen chloride from the remaining 50 that may need to leverage existing technologies to meet the new standards.

2,600 to 6,600 premature deaths will be avoided along with 4,100 heart attacks, and 42,000 asthma attacks.

EPA has also identified which non-hazardous secondary materials are considered solid waste when burned in combustion units. This distinction determines which Clean Air Act standard is applied when the material is burned. The non-hazardous secondary materials that can be burned as non-waste fuel include scrap tires managed under established tire collection programs. This step simplifies the rules and provides additional clarity and direction for facilities. To determine that materials are non-hazardous secondary materials when burned under today’s rule, materials must not have been discarded and must be legitimately used as a fuel.

The agency recognizes that secondary materials are widely used today as raw materials, as products, and as fuels in industrial processes. EPA believes that the final rule helps set protective emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.

The emissions standards for sewage sludge incinerators and the definition of solid waste are not part of today’s reconsideration.

About 200,000 boilers are located at small and large sources of air toxic emissions across the country. The final standards require many types of boilers to follow practical, cost-effective work practice standards to reduce emissions. To ensure smooth implementation, EPA is working with the departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) to provide the diverse set of facilities impacted by the standards with technical assistance that will help boilers burn cleaner and more efficiently. DOE will work with large coal and oil-burning sources to help them identify clean energy strategies that will reduce harmful emissions and make boilers run more efficiently and cost-effectively. In addition, USDA will reach out to small sources to help owners and operators understand the standards and their cost and energy saving features.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

Biomass Power Plants Fined $835,000 For Excess Particulate Matter Emissions

,

By Dominick DalSanto
Environmental Technologies Expert & Author
Baghouse.com

Two Biomass power plants in California’s central valley were fined $835,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for exceeding emission limits of nitrogen oxides (which lead to the formation of Ozone), and fine particulate matter. Ampersand Chowchilla Biomass, LLC, (ACB), and Merced Power, LLC, (MP), are located within 12 miles of each other in California’s San Joaquin Valley. An additional fine of $15,000 was issued to ACB by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District for violation of a district only statute.

The two plants which began operating in 2008 after nearly 2 years of refurbishments, are additionally required to install new pollution control technologies, and monitoring systems. As a result of this action, the plants have installed equipment that will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 180 tons per year, and carbon monoxide by up to 365 tons per year. The EPA and The District have placed the plants under supervision for the next years years to ensure compliance.

Failure to maintain a fully functionally dust collection system often leads to heavy governmental fines, and sanctions. In the end, the cost of properly maintaining your dust collection system is much lower than the costs associated with operating a faulty, inefficient, and inadequate system.

This action is part of the EPA’s larger efforts for improve the air quality across the nation, specifically in some of the nations largest urban areas. The San Joaquin Valley suffers from one of the worst air quality situations in the country. With heavy industry, a strong reliance on personal automobiles (lack of public transportation), and geographical characteristics all combining to create large amounts of smog, ozone and particulate matter pollution. The area often consistently exceeds national health standards for ozone and particulate matter.

“EPA is committed to doing our part to tackle the worst air quality in the nation. Today’s enforcement actions are a victory for human health,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “San Joaquin Valley communities can now breathe easier as a result of the significant pollution controls won in these settlements.”

Nitrogen oxides react with other chemicals to form ozone and small particles, both harmful to the public’s health. Ozone and particulate matter affect the human respiratory system, and are linked to a variety of significant health problems ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

Biomass power plants use green waste from farms and other operations that would otherwise be subject to open burning, and construction debris that might have gone to a landfill, to generate power. A key piece of equipment needed to control emissions from this process, is an suitable dust collection system. As this case demonstrates, failure to maintain a fully functionally dust collection system often leads to heavy governmental fines, and sanctions. In the end, the cost of properly maintaining your dust collection system is much lower than the costs associated with operating a faulty, inefficient, and inadequate system.

After refurbishing the plants in 2007-2008, ACB and MP initiated operations in 2008. A joint investigation by the EPA and District found that ACB and MP violated the air permits issued to them by the District by:

· Emitting air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide in excess of the permit limits;

· Failing to perform timely source testing to measure emissions of various air pollutants;

· Failing to properly install and operate emissions control systems for nitrogen oxides, a precursor to ozone; and

· Failing to certify the continuous emissions monitoring systems.

The plants also violated various District rules including requirements for emissions control plans.

Do you know of any real-life examples where plants chose not to invest in a adequate dust collection system (or failed to maintain it properly, install a larger system to keep up with production needs, etc…) and in the end it ended up costing them much more later on? If you do, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

EPA Fines Cemex Cement $1.4M for Dust Collection Violations

,

By Gilda Martinez
Environmental Author
Baghouse.com

February 10, 2011, Cemex, the largest producer of cement in United States has agreed to pay $1.4 million for Clean Air Act violations at its cement plant in Fairborn, Ohio, to the environmental protection agency (EPA) and to the Justice Department. An additional 2 million will need to be spent by Cemex on system improvements including the installation of pollution control technology in order to achieve EPA environmental requirements.

The plant located in Ohio was affecting the health of the local population. One assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said that the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can lead to grave health and environmental problems such as premature death and heart disease.

Increasingly, many environmental activists and politicians are taking are coming to believe that the only way to combat pollution is by levying heavy fines for companies that are habitually found to be in violation of current environmental regulations. This action they feel will force them to invest in pollution control technology to reduce harmful emissions.

This is a very important step taken by EPA, since it will mean not only an environmental improvement for the Fairborn populace and the surrounding region today, but also reduce childhood asthma, acid rain and smog caused by pollution, in the future.

According to the agency, Cemex annual emissions of NO2 and SO2 are expected to be reduced by approximately 2.300 tons and 288 tons.

Interestingly among the violations listed in the citation issued by the EPA, is the charge that also Cemex made substantial changes to the plant without first obtaining the proper permit. The largest polluters are required to apply for permits before beginning any work that may increase (even temporarily) air emissions.

The heavy fine for Cemex is part of an overall strategy by the EPA to mentioned push the cement industry to install the latest pollution control. For this reason the dust collection industry is expanding at a rapid pace since the demand for this equipment grows every year.

Tougher Enforcement Part of EPA Plan for 2011 – 2013

The imposing fines on the largest sources of emissions, such as Cemex and other cement manufacturers, is part of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013 in reducing air pollution. The efforts put by the EPA in this respect are noted in the following figures:

During 2010 due to tougher enforcement of emissions regulations in cement manufacturing, coal-fired power generation, glass and acid industries the EPA achieved the following results:

  • Prevented the release of 370 million pounds of pollution across all industries.
  • 1.4 in pollution controls due to installation of Baghouses, dust collectors, and other air filtration equipments.
  • $14 million in civil penalties

One State’s Pollution, is now Another State’s Problem

, ,

A few years ago the state of Maryland enacted legislation to require the installation of specialized emissions control technology to capture excess mercury emissions from power plants. And according to the latest published reports it appears that the initiative has been a success. Coal-burning power plants in Maryland are now required to install new pollution controls that reduce mercury emissions by 80 percent.

But appearently that is not enough to keep the air quality in the state safe enough for all. Why?

A serious health threat still exists because neighboring states have yet to crack down on the toxic pollutant, an environmental group’s report says. The neighboring states, particularly Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are among the worst in the nation for mercury emissions, ranking second, third and fourth highest, respectively, in the country. All are within Maryland’s “airshed,” where pollutants put into the air in one state are carried by prevailing winds into neighboring states.

Robert M. Summers, acting secretary of the environment, noted in a news release that 73 percent of the mercuy air pollution measured in Maryland is coming from outside the state’s borders.

He and others called on the Environmental Protection Agency to follow through with an air-quality standard it is set to propose in March that would curb mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.  The federal standard, if proposed as drafted, would reduce mercury emission by more than 90 percent, advocates say.

The report – and a recent press conference – are meant to put public pressure on EPA to go through with the regulation in the face of pushback from industry and its supporters in Congress, where legislation to block new EPA rules is said to be in the works.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.

Clean Coal Technology – Why We Need It & When Will We Have It?

By Gilda Martinez
Environmental Expert & Baghouse.com Staff Writer

Beingin, China, Sunday 10th of October 2010 –
32 people are killed in traffic accidents along roads that have become almost invisible due mainly to the heavy smog and fog in urban China’s overly polluted air. The largest contributor to that polluted air is by far fly ash, a residue generated by the combustion of coal, which is China’s single biggest source of solid industrial waste and, one of its gravest problems.

The purpose of this article is to draw attention to how much is being done in the development and implementation of Clean Coal technologies. With these emerging technologies it may be possible to prevent more situations like the one mention above from happening again elsewhere.  An examination of how the use of Coal as a fuel affects the environment, what the term Clean Coal technology really means, what Clean Coal techniques are being developed, and put into use today, and why it is so important for the health of both our planet, and the general population.

Why Is Coal So Highly Sought-After?

The use of coal is an integral part of almost every industry on Earth. For instance, 54% of the electricity generated in USA comes from burning Coal. Electric companies and businesses with power plants burn coal to make the steam that turns turbines and generates electricity. Not only The U.S but also China as it was mentioned before also produces a great amount of its electric power from coal, an even larger percentage than the US. A report states China meets 70% of its energy needs through this precious mineral, with electricity generation accounting for half of all coal consumption. The simple fact is that there isn’t a cheaper and sufficiently plentiful mineral that could replace this great power source.

Why Does it Cause Pollution?

Coal is the “dirtiest” of all the fossil fuels currently in use. Why is it so dangerous?  Coal is composed mainly out of carbons and hydrocarbons. When it is burned it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide CO2. This oft mentioned Greenhouse gas is one that while allowing sunlight to reach the Earth, also prevents some of the sun’s heat from radiating back into space, thus warming the planet. Additionally, when it is burned it releases fly ash (coal ash) a residue generated due to combustion.
According to a report dated on August 25th, 2008 by The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group of scientists that combine scientific research and citizen action to develop practical environmental solutions, a coal fire plant generates:

•    3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming, which is as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
•    10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small harmful airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
•    500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
•    10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide NOx, as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone smog, which inflames the lungs, burning through the lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
•    720 tons of carbon monoxide CO, which causes headaches, and places additional stress on people with heart disease.
•    220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds VOC, which form ozone.
•    170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
•    225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
•    114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.

Due to all the contaminants coal burning comes along with, there is an increasing need for technology development in the Clean Coal field. From here an analysis of what technologies are being used the most to remove pollution from coal burning residues.

Carbon Capture & Storage

Among all the existing Clean Coal technologies, the one that is the most popular and efficient is Carbon Capture and Storage. It consists of a process that captures carbon dioxide CO2 emissions from industrial sources and stores them in geological formations miles deep inside in the earth.
CCS Carbon Capture and Storage is an integrated concept consisting of three distinct components: CO2 capture, transport and storage including measurement, monitoring and verification. All three components are currently found in industrial operation today, although mostly not for the purpose of CO2 storage.
Depending on the process or power station in question, three approaches to Carbon Capture exist- pre-, post- and oxy-fuel combustion:

•    Pre-combustion capture systems remove CO2 prior to combustion. This is accomplished via gasification. The gasification of a fossil fuel produces a “synthesis gas” syn-gas, which is primarily a mixture of carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen. Before combustion, the syn-gas is reacted with steam to produce CO2 that is subsequently scrubbed from the gas stream, usually by a physical or chemical absorption process. The result is a hydrogen-rich fuel that can be used in a wide range of applications. Pre-combustion systems are not a mature market technology but are intended for deployment in conjunction with Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology. The use of IGCC for coal-based electricity production is limited with only four coal-based IGCC demonstration plants in operation globally. Reliability, availability and cost of technology have hindered wider deployment of IGCC.
•    Post-combustion techniques are the standard practice for removing pollutants, such as sulfur, from the flue gas of coal-fired power stations. Flue gas typically contains up to 14% CO2, which must be separated- either through absorption chemical or physical, cryogenics and membrane technologies. For CO2 capture, chemical absorption with amines, such as Monoethanolamine MEA, is currently the process of choice. Once recovered, the CO2 is cooled, dried and compressed for transport. Post-combustion systems are posited as a carbon mitigation solution for the existing fleet of coal-fired power plants around the globe. However, retrofitting a capture system to a power station requires major technical modifications. These alterations are quite costly and are accompanied by substantial decreases in generating efficiency. For example, an MEA retrofit of an existing 500 MWe subcritical pulverized coal PC power plant cuts efficiency by 14.5 %. Net electrical output is diminished by over 40% to 294 MWe. Such a retrofit is expected to impose capital costs of USD 1600/kWe
•    Oxy-fuel combustion burns fossil fuels in 95% pure oxygen instead of air. This results in a flue gas with high CO2 concentrations greater than 80% that can be condensed and compressed for transport and storage. This method of CO2 capture is still in the demonstration phase.

Other Clean Coal Technologies

The Sulfur gas produced by burning coal can be partially removed with scrubbers or filters. In conventional coal plants, the most common form of sulfur dioxide control is through the use of scrubbers. To remove the SO2, the exhaust from a coal-fired power plant is passed through a mixture of lime or limestone and water, which absorbs the SO2 before the exhaust gas is released through the smokestack. Scrubbers can reduce sulfur emissions by up to 90 percent, but smaller particulates are less likely to be absorbed by the limestone and can pass out the smokestack into the atmosphere.  In addition, scrubbers require more energy to operate, thus increasing the amount of coal that must be burned to power their operation.

Other coal plants use “fluidized bed combustion” instead of a standard furnace. Fluidized bed technology was developed in an effort to find a combustion process that could limit emissions without the need for external emission controls such as scrubbers. A fluidized bed consists of small particles of ash, limestone and other non-flammable materials, which are suspended in an upward flow of hot air. Powderized coal and limestone are blown into the bed at high temperature to create a tumbling action, which spurs more effective chemical reactions and heat transfer. During this burning process, the limestone binds with sulfur released from the coal and prevents it from being released into the atmosphere.

Fluidized bed combustion plants generate lower sulfur emissions than standard coal plants, but they are also more complex and expensive to maintain. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, sulfur emissions decreased by 33 percent between 1975 and 1990 through the use of scrubbers and fluidized bed combustors, as well as switching to low-sulfur coal.

Another technology used to clean coal is gasification which means to burn coal in oxygen to produce a cleaner gaseous fuel known as syngas mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This process reduces the emissions of Sulphur, nitrogen oxides and mercury, which results in a cleaner fuel. The resulting hydrogen gas can be used for electricity generation or as a transport fuel. The gasification process also facilitates capture of CO2 emissions from the combustion effluent (see discussion of carbon capture and storage below).

Integrated gasification combined cycle IGCC systems combine gasification with a heat recovery system that feeds a secondary steam-powered generator, thereby increasing the power generated from a given amount of coal. These systems are currently being employed in many new coal-fired power plants worldwide.

Why Clean Coal Technologies Are So Important

Discussion has shown how airborne pollution is affecting the planet to such a degree that scientists believe that there is a urgent need to take action, otherwise humankind will begin to suffer the consequences in short order if not now currently.

Government and environment advocates are doing their best to implement all the available strategies and to create new ones. Carbon Capture and Storage is being approved for use by many industries but, as with all that is new, this technology is very expensive and it consumes much more energy than others.

Therefore there is still a large demand for conventional Scrubbers and Filters for companies that cannot afford the latest to implement the latest technological advances.

We hope this article has provided a better understanding of this polluting mineral, the latest methods of reducing the environmental impact of coal, and raised awareness that the need for these environmentally friendly technologies is increasing every year.

Battle Between Texas and EPA Over Emissions Permits

,

In Texas, the EPA has informed a sizable number of oil refiners, chemical and plastics manufacturers that they need to bring their air pollution permits in line with federal and not Texas state levels.

All but three of the 74 companies have informed the Environmental Protection Agency that they will bring the state-issued permits into compliance with federal law within the next year.

This action is in response to the on-going conflict between federal air quality standards, and Texas state legislation which allows for so-called flexible permits. The permits in question require refineries, chemical plants and other facilities to meet an overall emissions cap but allows them to choose how to do so. Federal rules, however, require plants to limit emissions of certain pollutants from each source within a facility.

With this turn of events, it appears that even while Texas is still battling the EPA on this issue, industry in general in Texas is bringing itself in line with federal standards.

Commenting on Texas industries Al Armendariz, the EPA’s administrator based in Dallas stated “They understand these permits are an anomaly,” adding that none of the companies has indicated that it will sue to keep its flexible permit. “It’s now a question of how do they fix them instead of whether they should”.

Texas has filed suit to block the EPA’s disapproval of flex permits, asserting that there is no legal or technical justification for the federal agency’s action.

The EPA rejected the state’s use of the permits in June, saying they fall short of the federal Clean Air Act’s requirements. But those with the permits reacted slower than Armendariz liked, so he threatened fines and other penalties if they did not move by Dec. 22 to resolve their permits.

The EPA would not say which companies failed to meet the deadline because of the possibility of taking enforcement action against them. But Armendariz said his staff had heard from the 30 largest permit-holders, which account for roughly 90 percent of emissions released under flexible permits.

Pam Giblin, an Austin-based Baker Botts attorney who represents many large flexible permit holders, said industry waited to respond until the EPA had explained how to make their permits comply — and not in protest.

Pollutants and permits

The single overall cap, the EPA argues, makes the Texas permits nearly unenforceable and allow plants to emit more than similar facilities in other states. But state officials say the system cuts red tape and pollution without violating federal law.

TCEQ spokesman Andy Saenz said companies “must decide for themselves how to deal with EPA’s overreaching and unnecessary regulatory demands. The TCEQ is not requiring any ‘fix’ but the agency is accommodating any legally viable transition option that flex permit holders may choose to exercise.”

The EPA has encouraged companies to follow the leads of Flint Hills Resources and INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA – both of which agreed to apply for new state-issued permits after negotiating some terms and conditions with the federal agency.

That’s important because the agreements ensure that the state permits will meet federal requirements, said Ilan Levin, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, which has filed legal challenges to some of the flexible permits.

Request for transparency

“The devil is in the details, and the TCEQ hasn’t been willing to guarantee that these be done in a transparent way,” Levin said.

Valero Energy Corp., for example, has asked TCEQ to set limits for each emissions source at its plants, but to leave the rest of the permit alone. The state has issued new permits for five of the San Antonio company’s six Texas facilities, although the EPA has raised concerns about whether the revisions are federally compliant.

Valero spokesman Bill Day said the company is talking with the EPA to resolve their differences.

 

 
About the Author

| Dominick DalSanto is an Author & Environmental Technologies Expert, specializing in Dust Collection Systems. With nearly a decade of hands-on working experience in the industry, Dominick’s knowledge of the industry goes beyond a mere classroom education. He is currently serving as Online Marketing Director & Content Manager at Baghouse.com. His articles have been published not only on Baghouse.com , but also on other industry related blogs and sites. In his spare time, Dominick writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs.