Green FAIL – FOIA shows dangerous university biomass power plant fraught with problems, closures, explosion

thestate.com

USC’s biomass plant debacle

How the university’s green dream went bust after three ‘potentially lethal accidents’ and a host of other problems

By WAYNE WASHINGTON (The State Newspaper)

biomass

Quinton Bolin, USC's energy facilities superintendent describes how the turbine generator works as he gives a tour of USC's idle Biomass Energy Center. Columbia, S.C. 10-05-2011.

On June 28, 2009, an explosion rocked the biomass-fueled power plant on the campus of the University of South Carolina.

The force of the blast sent a metal panel some 60 feet toward the control office of the plant at Whaley and Sumter streets, according to documents obtained from USC by The State newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request.

No one was hurt, but USC officials were concerned enough about the “potentially lethal accident” that they ordered an independent safety review and, in a strongly worded letter to the company that had built the plant, made it clear that university staff would not be allowed back into the building until the review was completed.

The blast underscored what some USC officials privately grumbled about for years: That the plant has been a $20 million disaster, a money pit that was poorly planned and built by a company that had never constructed such a cutting-edge “green energy” power plant before.

Interviews with USC officials and a spokeswoman for the company as well as a review of more than 1,800 pages of documents show that:

• USC, whose officials touted the plant “as the cat’s meow” before its startup in December 2007, closed it in March of this year after it had been shut down more than three dozen times. In one two-year period, the plant only provided steam – its purpose – on 98 out of 534 days, according to a USC review.

• There was no separate bidding process for the construction of the plant. The firm that built it, Johnson Controls Inc. of Wisconsin, was the only firm that included the construction of a biomass plant as part of its effort to win a competitively bid energy services contract. JCI won that $33.6 million energy services contract, then alone negotiated with USC the added cost of the biomass plant.

• USC paid JCI an additional $19.6 million for the plant. The university was to get its money back in energy savings or payments from JCI. So far, JCI has paid USC $4.3 million because the plant did not perform as promised. As things stand now, USC will recoup its $19.6 million investment by 2020 from payments by JCI.

• Despite a relationship that was, at one point, so acrimonious that USC hired outside legal counsel, the university continues to work with JCI. One option that USC now is considering is putting natural gas-fired turbines in the closed biomass plant to produce power, and JCI may be involved, a USC official says.

• Most substantively, however, the biomass experience led USC to change its structure of governance, giving a reformulated committee of its board of trustees responsibility for overseeing and vetting projects.

Now sitting idle, with spider webs and a thin film of dust replacing a plant’s hard-hat hustle and bustle, the biomass plant stands as a monument to the university’s failed push toward new, “green” technology, inadequate oversight and naïveté, some of its own officials acknowledge in internal documents.

The plant blemishes the legacy of the late Andrew Sorensen, the beloved, bow-tied president who was in charge of USC when the plant was conceived and constructed. And it also raises questions about whether USC’s revised system of oversight will be able to prevent future instances of idealism gone wrong that marred the biomass project from the beginning.

“A (expletive) mess with many layers,” is how William “Ted” Moore, a former USC vice president of finance and planning, described the plant in an email to Ed Walton, USC’s chief financial officer.

In another email, this one to USC president Harris Pastides, who succeeded Sorensen, Moore said: “The value of this thing may be scrap metal.”

That’s not the way JCI sees the project.

“We remain committed to the long-term success of the USC project, and the university has been supportive and appreciative of Johnson Controls’ efforts to fulfill its commitment,” said Karen Conrad, the company’s director of marketing communications.

Full story:  http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/09/2001993/uscs-biomass-plant-debacle.html#ixzz1aKeVXkUU

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At least they finally (weeks late) complied with FOIA requests, unlike some public agencies we know:

About this story

More than 1,800 pages of records obtained by The State show the biomass project collapsed into delays, recriminations and frustration.

Click here to read excerpts of those documents

State senior reporter Wayne Washington requested documents, via the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, concerning USC’s biomass plant on June 29 from the University of South Carolina. That law allows public agencies 15 working days to respond to a request for public information.

University officials responded they would need additional time to fulfill the request. They also said, because USC is getting an increasing number of requests for public information, the university would exercise its legal right to charge for document production and copying.

USC supplied 1,816 pages of documents concerning the $20 million facility to The State Sept. 22, charging $255.80 to provide the information.

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h/t to WUWT reader Mike Whaley

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82 Responses to Green FAIL – FOIA shows dangerous university biomass power plant fraught with problems, closures, explosion

  1. u.k.(us) says:

    ……of mice, and men.

  2. Alvin says:

    Anyone else notice it is always the Marketing arm of any business that is driving green energy, and most “liberal” programs?

  3. Barbara Skolaut says:

    Ummmm, that’s “fraught,” Anthony.
    /pedant

    [Fixed, thanx. ~dbs, mod.]

  4. charles nelson says:

    Ah Johnson controls…that explains everything!

  5. Doug in Seattle says:

    Alvin, I don’t “liberal” describes the problem. It crosses political lines and is somewhere in the vicinity of “criminal”.

  6. John Andrews says:

    More about this plant that uses wood chips to produce syngas can be found here: http://www.palletenterprise.com/articledatabase/view.asp?articleID=2841

    — John Andrews

  7. Grey lensman says:

    The link says this
    Quote

    On Friday, Kelly reiterated his belief in biomass as a new and important fuel source.

    Unquote

    Had they never heard of wood burning stoves. or boilers or such. Shakes head and leaves room

  8. KevinK says:

    Seems consistent to me;

    “The force of the blast sent a metal panel some 60 feet toward….”

    AND

    “cutting-edge “green energy” power plant”

    Nothing says “cutting-edge” like a nice thin piece of metal (formerly known as a knife).

    Cheers, Kevin.

  9. Nonegatives says:

    Do a search for “biodiesel plant explosion” you might be amazed at how often this occurs. There was a local one in a rural neighborhood that caught fire 2 years ago. The residents didn’t realize what kind of chemicals were used there and how dangerous it was.

  10. Rhoda Ramirez says:

    They’re pushing the green stuff so fast that common sense and engineering quality control are shoved to the side, if not ignored all together.

  11. Dennis says:

    So USC has other properties sitting idle than the old Food Lion property in Goose Creek, which has turned into a local eye sore, vandal attractant, and over-all bad neighbor to have?

    USC has been unresponsive to attempts by the local Mayor and the Crowfield Homeowners Assoc. to remedy this blight. The abandoned property sits in its own Berkeley County doughnut, surrounded by the City and un-answereable to City Zoning ordinances.

    I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that a schools goal was to educate rather than to dabble in real estate and energy sales.

  12. Drewski says:

    Google industrial accidents and you will see this is EXTREMELY common across scores of industries. I can’t believe the crap that accounts for “news” on this web site.

  13. Craig in Oshkosh, WI says:

    I don’t think it is a problem with the biomass fuel. Biomass is not as explosive as Natural Gas or even oil. Don’t let the term biomass fool you; biomass = wood, corn cobs, rice hulls, charcoal, dried cow patties, etc. There are differences between how you fire different fuels but the commonality of the different technigues is the goal of a even temp across the boiler bed and adequate air flow. The explosion may have come from defective water tubes, pipes that carry hot water/steam away from the boiler to the turbine but that is conjecture on my part. I didn’t read the documents through the links so maybe it says in one of those say that a hunk of biomass fuel got caught in the turbine and exploded but I doubt it. Burning biomass fuel isn’t as dumb as putting wind turbines of soler panels all over. Eventually, biomass will be just another fuel.

  14. The “green” industry seems almost to be a Section 8. Propped up by funding and subsidy.

    Will the REAL green alternative energy please stand up!

    We understand it isn’t easy being green. Just give us the best you can give. Here’s hoping for the best. And if you can produce it, the economy will support it.

    If you can’t, then keep working at it. Meanwhile we will go after “green” hydrocarbons, like natural gas.

    The real canary in the coal mine is not any subsidized or socialized prop at the taxpayers’ expense (such as Solyndra); rather, it would be T Boone Pickens.

    He tried it. And moved on.

    Natural gas…is our immediate future…until we can figure out something better.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  15. temp says:

    “Drewski says:
    October 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Google industrial accidents and you will see this is EXTREMELY common across scores of industries. I can’t believe the crap that accounts for “news” on this web site.”
    Can you point me to links where you find non-“green” energy plants producing 98 out of 534 days of the year and said plants staying in business?

    The reason it was posted was because of the attempted cover up, delay tactics, charging for info and wonderful results…

    However I think everyone can agree that green tech failure is common place… so common that it should not be in use now or anytime soon.

    [note: Drewski isn't interested in discussion, only denigration. He has anger issues. Don't feed the troll ~mod]

  16. kim says:

    Was they a scrubba on it?
    ===========

  17. crosspatch says:

    We already have biomass fuel, it is called extracting methane from landfills. No fancy gizmos required. But apparently it does require political clout sometimes even to get that done.

    Example: A city in a coastal California county has a landfill which generates methane. The California Coastal Commission allowed a pipeline to be built from the landfill to a private company to supply it with gas. The town also wants to build a second pipeline from the landfill to its water treatment plant … DENIED. Apparently a private company is capable of dumping cash in the right places to get its projects through the Commission but a city can’t.

    This is even though the gas pipeline would parallel an existing pipeline that carries leachate from the landfill to the water treatment facility (leachate being water that leaches out of the landfill that is collected by a ring of wells around it). Apparently the leachate wells and treatment are mandated by state law so the commission has to allow that pipeline but there is no mandate from the state to allow the methane to be captured to power the treatment of the water.

  18. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    I tried to find some permit documents online but haven’t found them yet. This is an informative article including gasifier system schematics, some project photos etc.:

    http://www.nexterra.ca/PDF/BiomassMagMarch08FNLLogos.pdf

    …sorry, as an former Okie, all I can say is that they should have hired John Zink Company!

  19. Nonegatives says:

    I suppose looking up “meth lab explosions” will return similar results.

  20. Roger Sowell says:

    Well, no wonder it didn’t work. It appears that this technology includes a wood gasifier, per this link:

    http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/scedocs/B8595InE/000734.pdf

    University of South Carolina to Add Waste Wood Gasification System

    “The University of South Carolina will soon add a waste wood
    gasification system to its central energy system, using existing waste
    products from sawmills, logging and timber operations in the Midlands
    to produce 60,000 pounds of steam per hour (about 85 percent of campus steam needs) and
    approximately one megawatt of electricity.

    The biomass energy plant will utilize one million tons of South Carolina homegrown energy over
    20 years, saving students and taxpayers almost $2 million annually while improving air quality
    through substantially reduced emissions of sulfur dioxides, nitrogen dioxides and particulate
    matter.

    About $1.5 million annually in wood waste expenditures will be pumped into the South Carolina
    economy, displacing spending now going to oil and natural gas producers in Gulf States and
    abroad. Furthermore, campus operations will be significantly protected from future oil and
    natural gas supply disruptions, such as those occurring in late summer of 2005.”

    The technology on such solid waste gasifiers is notoriously prone to equipment breakdown and having low on-stream factors, and this is well-known by engineers. U. South Carolina management should have done a better job of due diligence before approving the expenditures.

  21. Lew Skannen says:

    This reminds me very much of the stories I read about the Great Leap Forward in China under Mao. At this time steel production was the big thing and everyone in every walk of life was given a quota of steel to produce. University professors had to take turns pumping air into the university steel smelter and for raw material the peasants often had to melt down all their work tools and cooking pots. The steel produced was invariably of such low quality that it was quietly disposed of by the steel mills when it was delivered to them.

    When I read it I could not imagine how society could become so nutty…

  22. andrew says:

    Its a problem with engineering design and lack of safeguards; not (inherently) with biomass. My job is heavily related to process safety for oil & gas plants, and for me, biomass is just another source of gas. Design it properly, and you can prevent explosions. Probably they didn’t (alternatively, they did but were unlucky).

  23. LazyTeenager says:

    Basically nothing to do with green as such. It’s just everyday engineering. In the real world s—t happens. Nuclear power plants melt down, oil wells spring a leak, gas refineries explode, ships sink, aeroplanes crash, methyl isocyanate escapes.

    The technology here sounds like the gas generators attached to cars during the great war. Old tech in other words.

  24. Kum Dollison says:

    Gosh, they contracted for a company to build something that the company had never, before, built; and it didn’t work properly.

    I jes can’t imagine.

  25. crosspatch says:

    It appears that this technology includes a wood gasifier, per this link:

    South Carolina is a great place for pine trees. Why don’t they just burn turpentine?

  26. Catcracking says:

    Some observations:
    “JCI and USC sign a contract for the construction of a $20 million biomass plant. ”
    “Plant needs 5.4 million in repairs, etc.”

    On the other hand they report that replacement boilers cost about $1.6 million for 2 conventional boilers. I hope they are not teaching economics at that school. Remember they shut down clean natural gas fired boilers because the price of natural gas, which has fallen like a rock.
    Maybe they should have hired some outside engineers with industry experience to oversee the job and avoid poor design decisions and reported engineering errors. Anone who spends $20 Million without expert engineering oversight is not doing their job especially for “cutting edge” technology. You can’t just trust any Contractor on such a large job unless you are spending taxpayers $$$.

    Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/09/2002026/the-value-of-this-thing-may-be.html#ixzz1aLjFH0zv

    “The wood feedstock is heated in chambers to 1,500 degrees. Heating the wood fiber produces syngas – the process is called gasification – that is siphoned off and burned to generate steam and electricity. The steam is used for heating, hot water conversion or for domestic hot water uses.”

    Gasifiers require a refractory lined containment vessel due to the high temperature which must be designed properly and maintained. Corrosion is an important consideration. At this temperature the steel will not last long if there is a hotspot due to refractory maalfunction and expert monitoring is required using infrared equipment. Does it make sense to locate such critical equipment close to the quarters where the students sleep?

    “The plant can accept about 10 truck-loads of chips per day. Outside, where the trucks are unloaded, the chips are fed into a hopper, and a conveyor carries the material to a storage area inside the plant. The interior storage area can hold enough wood to run the plant for four to six days.”
    Imagine the noise and carbon footprint of 10 trucks/day running through the campus. But this is green?

    “By-products of the gasification process are ash and water vapor, which exits through a smoke stack. “Carbon dioxide leaves the stack at the same time,” said Quinton. “But since this is a carbon-neutral process, no more carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere than the trees have absorbed during their life cycle. For this reason the operation can be considered completely ‘green.’ ” Ash is sent to a landfill, but the university is looking for outlets for ash, such as using it as a soil amendment or in construction material.

    “He says fly ash from the plant has contaminated the soil and a creek near the plant. “Someone needs to remove the contaminate (sic) soil and replant grass, shrubs, and possibly one tree.”

    Anone who has ever burned wood knows that there is a lot of ash left that needs to be disposed. This is green? And they shut down clean gas fied boilers to fire up this polluting mess? Also keep in mind that wood like coal can have all kinds of nasty chemicals like mercury, etc. that are difficult to remove.
    The emissions control equipment and monitoring would likely be expensive to meet todays EPA requirements.

    Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/09/2002026/the-value-of-this-thing-may-be.html#ixzz1aLkpZkSq

  27. “The firm that built it, Johnson Controls Inc. of Wisconsin…”

    They should have been hired during the Clinton administration.

  28. crosspatch says:

    they contracted for a company to build something that the company had never, before, built; and it didn’t work properly.

    I don’t think there are any companies that have built plants exactly like this before. Also, I think it is most likely that Johnson Controls simply built the plant to someone’s specifications. They were basically an assembly agent. I would be extremely surprised of these problems were the fault of Johnson Controls and not the fault of a faulty design which probably wasn’t theirs.

    In other words, I believe Johnson Controls was most likely contracted to build a plant according to a design the university came up with.

  29. Don K says:

    Y’know — it’s perfectly possible to burn the wood waste and use steam to drive a conventional power plant. There aren’t a whole lot large wood powered power stations in the world, but Vermont’s Burlington Electric Company has been running a multiple fuel 50MW wood/natural gas powered plant for a couple of decades without incident. Yes, it’s reasonably environmentally friendly. Burlington is every bit as liberal as Berkley. A polluting power plant within walking distance of downtown would probably be subject to unending demonstrations.

    Cost of power generated — Competitive with nuclear from Vermont Yankee or hydro from Hydro-Quebec

    https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/page.php?pid=75&name=mcneil
    http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/1229/harnessing-the-power-of-biomass/

  30. J.H. says:

    Drewski says:

    October 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Google industrial accidents and you will see this is EXTREMELY common across scores of industries. I can’t believe the crap that accounts for “news” on this web site.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Then why do they take so long to fulfil simple FOIA requests….. Why not make the information available on the public record before anyone has to ask…..

    … and why are you so hostile to people asking questions about Green schemes that don’t work?….. I’ll give you another one if you want…

    In Cairns, in the good state of Queensland, Australia…. The Cairns city council got carpetbagged into building a you beaut, state of the green art rubbish recycling plant…. The Bedminster Composting Plant…. It has never worked from the outset. It broke down not long after it was built and stayed broken for years. All the rubbish had to be trucked up the Atherton range and dumped up there at ratepayers expense….When it does work, it stinks….. and because it is to the south of Cairns the prevailing wind carries the stink across the city for 9 months of the year… on calm winter nights with a gentle Southerly breeze…. suburbs like Portsmith, Westcourt, Manunda, are unbearable… Even the CBD, fer cryin’ out loud. Bluddy stinks mate.

    …. Just like Green ideology stinks. One giant expensive dangerous bluddy stinking mess after another, and usually subsidized by the taxpayer or the ratepayer….. .or both.

  31. jorgekafkazar says:

    Lew Skannen says: “When I read it I could not imagine how society could become so nutty…”

    It’s a normal feature of leftist organizations.

  32. LazyTeenager says:

    Anone who has ever burned wood knows that there is a lot of ash left that needs to be disposed. This is green? And they shut down clean gas fied boilers to fire up this polluting mess? Also keep in mind that wood like coal can have all kinds of nasty chemicals like mercury, etc. that are difficult to remove.
    ————
    So according to this theory everytime there is a brushfire the state has to strip the contaminated and mercury polluted ash from thousands of acres and bury it in landfill.

    And I thought ash was plant food. Silly me.

  33. LazyTeenager says:

    To put things into perspective this kind of technology falls into the same ball park as the victorian’s use of coal gas, the lurgi process for producing gas from brown coal, and the production of liquid fuels from coal and burning logs in your lounge room.

    No big deal.

  34. M2Cents says:

    I wonder if the USC School of Engineering had any input on the project?

    All the people talking seem to be from other, unrelated, fields.

  35. P. Solar says:

    Well WUWT never misses a chance make a mountain out of a mole his and print a headline with the word FAIL in it.

    Was there anywhere else in the world this week where there was an unimportant explosion that did not hurt anyone ?

    The same editorial staff seem less keen to decry Fukupshima having three of it’s six reactors go into meltdown and evacuation of thousands of sq km around the plant being necessary.

    That was due to mature technology by substantial, long established corporations. FAIL???

    It’s not a case of “green” or not , just the money corrupts and where there’s money to be made the unscrupulous will takes risks and cut corners.

    So unless you’re going to start publishing every time some hurts their finger in a nuclear power plant maybe we can stop this rather childish series of FAIL articles every a windmill kills a seagull.

    [REPLY: You really don’t seem to grasp that the USC explosion, collapsed wind turbines and minced endangered birds did not require an earthquake or tsunami to fail. The technologies are not as effective, environmentally friendly, or safe as they are touted to be. You would prefer to wait until lives are lost. People are soon going to be asking why they weren’t warned about any of this, but the truth is that they were, here at WUWT. What is really juvenile is attempting to suppress this kind of information. WUWT will do as it sees fit. Sorry you don’t approve of the policy. –REP]

  36. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    “But since this is a carbon-neutral process, no more carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere than the trees have absorbed during their life cycle. For this reason the operation can be considered completely ‘green'”

    Say what? Astounding. While ignoring all the emissions required to service this juggernaut…
    But: Let’s try rewording this a bit:

    But since this is a carbon-neutral process, no more carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere than the [insert carbon-based organism] have absorbed during their life cycle. For this reason the operation can be considered completely ‘green’.

    So I guess the “Tar” sands are just as green? Nice try. Carbon neutral when it suits ya.

  37. federico says:

    Craig in Oshkosh, WI says:
    October 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    “I don’t think it is a problem with the biomass fuel. Biomass is not as explosive as Natural Gas or even oil. Don’t let the term biomass fool you; biomass = wood, corn cobs, rice hulls, charcoal, dried cow patties, etc. There are differences between how you fire different fuels but the commonality of the different technigues is the goal of a even temp across the boiler bed and adequate air flow”.

    Craig:
    To your list of possible biomasses I would add “organic residues from households and gardens”, which work pretty well in Switzerland.

    This is a good review on safety issues with biogas units:
    http://www.hdi-gerling.de/docs/fachinformationen/sifis/hdi-gerling_biogasanlage_04.2009.pdf?NM_
    (It’s written in German and English).

    There you can see that saftey issues are much more complex as comparing with gas burners; multiple hazards need to be considered as combustible gases (a mixture of many) can appear in the most unexpected places along the process, even in the discharged residues. Not to forget the omnipresence of highly toxic CO.The nature and properties of biomasses can change and lead to a dangerous process-stops, especially if the plant is not designed for diversities in organic materials and the plant management/supervision lacks expertise to cope with the unexpected or emergencies. Your are right, corrosion, leaking pipes, etc are also big challenges for material selection (cost issue!) and installation. It is surprising though that JCI, as a company with broad international experience in facility management, failed in this project. I guess that being already in charge of facility management at USC they saw the opportunity to expand in a non-core business (plant construction): “Hey, we can do it!”. Now they are learning by experience. The next plant will be better (but more expensive).

    Whenever a project involving a “new” technology (new as such or “new” because of lack of experience) has to be done in a hurry and with budget constraints, the tendency is to neglect all what “slows down” the process and what add costs, e.g. thorough safety reviews and risk analyses by real specialists (who may ask for costly safety add-ons). It is a frequent misconception that being in full regulatory EHS compliance (tremendous beurocracy) all hazards (and consequential risks) are automatically adressed. In addition, being in an University setting, I would be surprised if they (at USC) have in place adequate EHS policies asking for thorough Safety Reviews by specialists in projects and during start-ups, which is common practice in most good industries.

  38. Richard S Courtney says:

    LazyTeenager:

    There are niche uses for biomass that save fuel and money; e.g. burning scrap wood chippings as fuel for a saw mill. All such uses consist of burning (n.b. NOT gasifying) the biomass to produce heat. But there are no viable uses of biomass for large scale energy use because the .

    Biomass is solar energy collected by photosynthesis over short time and provided as wet, uncompressed material. It is physically impossible for biomass to be economically competitive with fossil fuels that are solar energy collected by photosynthesis over long time (i.e. geological ages) and provided as dry, compressed material.

    At October 10, 2011 at 12:03 am you make the silly assertions when you write:

    “To put things into perspective this kind of technology falls into the same ball park as the victorian’s use of coal gas, the lurgi process for producing gas from brown coal, and the production of liquid fuels from coal and burning logs in your lounge room.
    No big deal.”

    No!

    The “victorian’s use of coal gas” required heating coal in a ‘saucepan’ with the lid on, collecting the volatile gases released and piping them to where required for burning, and using the residual coke as a solid fuel for heating or as metalurgical coke.

    The Lurgi process is a fixed-bed coal gasifier that processes coal of known and controlled quality and rank so behaves in a known and, therefore, controlable manner. Similarly, Lurgi, Sasol and LSE each produce liquid products by processing from coal of known and controlled quality and rank.

    And it is not like “burning logs in your lounge room”; when did your burning logs provide an explosion hazard?

    Biomass is variable and its gasification will vary in unknowable – so uncontrolable – ways. It is both silly and dangerous.

    Richard

  39. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    [peasant mode]
    So, after 20+ years of burning ‘biomass’ and the local soils are entirely devoid of organic matter, trace elements and and all else vital for actually growing biomass, what are these people going to do? Will they blame the duststorms, sweltering daytime heat, freezing nights and torrents of mud whenever it rains on ‘CAGW’? How dumb can you get?

    Removing biomass and burning it is the same madness as turning corn into petrol/gas, but much much worse because after 20 odd years, no more corn or biomass will grow. None. Nil. Zilch. Nada.
    That a ‘university’ (seat of learning) doesn’t realise that and sanctions such lunacy is simply mindblowing.

  40. polistra says:

    The bow-tie should have been enough warning. Never take advice from a bow-tie man.

  41. Grey lensman says:

    20 million dollars for 1Mw.

    Nuff said

  42. Pascvaks says:

    Anyone who has sat, produced, and pondered the nature of BioMass (aka – “BM”) knows all too well that proper venting is critical and that no one will live very long without it.

  43. Gail Combs says:

    Drewski says:
    October 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Google industrial accidents and you will see this is EXTREMELY common across scores of industries. I can’t believe the crap that accounts for “news” on this web site.
    ____________________________________________________________
    Industrial accidents are often due to Quality and Safety Engineering as well as Maintenance taking a backseat to profit. I have certainly seen enough examples first hand during my life time working as an QO lab manager. HOWEVER Universities who should be teaching decent business ethics – human safety before profit – should be held to a higher standard.

    This project by the school was because of a feel good, green, save the planet motive, it AGAIN shows that Quality and Safety Engineering as well as Maintenance taking a backseat to pushing an agenda.

    That is the point that WUWT is trying to make. PROFIT – bilking the tax payer by fly by night industries and pushing a political agenda by the “left” are much more important than human safety and well being. None of the green energy movement has anything to do with “saving the planet” or “saving Humanity” It is all about greed, profit and power the rest is just hype to sell it to the rubes.

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” ~ H.L. Mencken.

  44. Cock Prof says:

    The gasification basically works. Most of the issues they have had at this plant are related to stuff that should work, like chip handling (solids conveyors) and steam production (bad boilers). They can turn chips into syn gas and burn that cleanly in a furnace, they could not get the whole thing to work consistently.

  45. C.M. Carmichael says:

    The key in any “green” enterprise is ” leap before you look”.

  46. johnfpittman says:

    I would like to point a few items of interest. I run a wood boiler nearby to USC. Lost a couple of boiler operators to USC. The unit is for biomass. Wood was used in startup due to the ease of proving the technology. USC used several of the same suppliers I do.

    Due to the drop in allowable PM emissions, new biomass boilers have a severe challenge in meeting them. In fact only one manufacturer has claimed to be able to meet them. Converting to Coal gas has some advantages; it also has its disadvantages. For WUWT readers, this means that you do not get something for nothing. A theme often shown on this blog. It should also be pointed out that this unit was set up as an experimental unit, in that with new emission standards, an ultra-clean system train had to be produced. It is in the middle of a major city metropolitan area. This was the challenge that was faced. It is a good argument that the unit at this time has failed. However, the reason of the failure needs to be considered.

    Since I know from professional experience that we have wood simply rotting in the wood farms from culling and trimming that could fuel a significant amount of energy, why waste it by natural decomposition? It was requested by the SC Agriculture and Natural Resources that such technology be considered for a number of projects. It would take what is now a waste and make it profitable to use as an energy source.

    Readers here should know by now, that being on the cutting edge, is on the bleeding edge. It is unfortunate, but I would claim that it is worse if we don’t even try. At least this is a technology that reduces the cost per decatherm of energy production, where as wind and solar are about 3 times more expensive than the bulk cost of energy now available. Wood is generally as low as coal without many of the emission and flyash problems of coal.

  47. Dr. Lurtz says:

    © Copyright 2011, Industrial Reporting, Inc.
    10244 Timber Ridge Dr.
    Ashland, VA 23005

    “The university weighed many options as it looked for ways to as it looked for ways to reduce costs for steam and electricity. Jeff Morehouse, a U.S.C. mechanical engineering professor, and other U.S.C. faculty and staff who were tackling the problem learned through Johnson Controls Inc. of Nexterra, a Canadian company. Nexterra could supply the components for a plant that could process wood waste material into syngas, a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Jeff was sold on the technology and became an advocate.”

    ———————————
    The simplest approach for dealing with “reduce costs for steam and electricity” is to not use any!! After many years of studying this problem, my solution is to remove all people from the Earth. This implements the ultimate of EPA mandates: complete environment protection. As a first step, I would propose closing the university thereby eliminating steam and electricity use…

  48. FredericM says:

    The race to the moon. Soviets built some daring rockets.

    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa one of the largest Nuke power plant assembly facilities. Too bad the paltry entry into nuke power at Arco, Butte County, ID was not of this size. Root Hog the village name when Post Office application was submitted. The new name app the village submitted ‘Junction’ was changed by the authority of postal business to Arco- after the then resident of Washington DC Georg von Arco. ??

    Green is a religion. As with all of such, a high priest dominates the utilization of the collection plate. Green has a place within science, but not in the church.

  49. D Marshall says:

    At least the USC seems to have a solid contract to cover the failures. Johnson Controls is on the hook and they’ll have to make good somehow, or reimburse USC. All energy contracts, green or otherwise should be this comprehensive.

  50. Max Hugoson says:

    Amazing “contorsions” of the mind involved here. This “fuel” reduces the “carbon footprint”.

    I guess I’d be concerned of the QUALITY of “education” at this institute of lower learning. Do I have to go through very basic stuff here? If you grow a tree, yes you removed CO2. If it dies naturally, it falls to the ground and rots, in general a LOT of that Carbon goes back into the soil, not into the air.

    If you cut it down and BURN it, the Carbon content all goes out as CO2.

    SO HOW DOES THIS REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT????

    Sorry, I’m at a loss to figure out this “logic”. Falls into the same realm as using sewage to generate CH4, is a “green” technology. Only in this case, the logic matches the input to the technology.

  51. Ralph says:

    .
    Is this another case of oxygen getting into a dangerously hot and explosive gas (or vice versa)?

    The Fukushima was a similar engineering oversight, just waiting for a disaster. If they had put openable ‘windows’ in the top of the reactor containment buildings, there would not have been a gas build up, and thus no hydrogen explosions. The world would have been a safer place, and all for the want of a ‘window’.

    .

  52. It seems that the trend today is to take several steps backwards in order to get the same result from the technology we already have. Using energy to change a fuel into another fuel or reverse the combustion process like with CO2 to energy systems seems very backwards. I am all for energy conservation and new technology but not by sacrificing our lifestyle or future. I see a future that runs on millions of times more energy than we are using now. How will we ever move past fossil fuels if we don’t embrace and push for energy creation that is continuous and vastly more powerful? Atomic and subatomic solutions are the future. Will the spacecraft run on wind or biofuel? There is not enough biofuel on this planet or a hundred planets to power our energy needs. If everything in our world becomes “smart”, which it should, what will power them? What will power the electric cars, trucks, construction equipment, trains, planes, boats, and whatever else we come up with? Wind farms, tidal farms, biofuel? Surely all of these will impact the beloved planet. Wind farms will alter climate if you build them large enough, same with tidal energy. The only sustainable future I see is one where we go BIG and everyone else goes home. Take your energy inefficient and intermittent power, and leave the future to real scientists.

  53. Phil. says:

    I don’t see this as a ‘Green fail’ just a contracting failure and consequent choice of a flawed design and contractor.

  54. tty says:

    Actually burning biofuel is hardly “cutting edge”. It has been done on a large scale in e. g. Sweden for decades. However it is difficult to get really high pressures/temperatures out of these low-grade fuels, so it works best for plants who produce mostly heat for housing and a relatively small proportion of electricity. If you want to produce a larger proportion of electricity the accepted and well-tried solution is to “top up” the plant with some natural gas. Now this is not in accordance with the Green religion, hence the effort to produce some sort of “natural gas” internally in the plant. Now producing and handling large amounts of CO gas is a decidedly risky technology, so I am not surprised the whole thing went bang. By the way CO is extremely toxic, so it could have been much worse.

  55. Ben of Houston says:

    This is mostly a good example of poor quality control. There is no reason for a plant that new to be having such issues. There hasn’t been time for maintenance to get bad, so the problem has to be poor design and constuction.

    Sorry, but this isn’t about shoddy biofuels, just shoddy construction.

  56. harrywr2 says:

    Roger Sowell says:
    October 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm
    U. South Carolina management should have done a better job of due diligence before approving the expenditures.

    That’s the point isn’t it.
    It’s green and we are saving the planet so the kind of vetting that we apply to greedy, ugly corporate polluters isn’t necessary.

    So we end up with windmills that are subject to turbine failure located on primary school playgrounds and industrial gasification processes that belong in an area zoned for ‘heavy industry’ on college campuses.

  57. Paul says:

    Johnson Controls did not build plant…They subcontracted job to Nexterra. Looking at Nexterra website they have many projects listed.. but not this one.

  58. johnfpittman says:

    There are several important constraints not outlined well in the article. First, this was to be on the cutting edge, not as previous systems were. The reason was multifold. One is the permitting necessary with ozone requirements in an area that is non-attainment to almost non-attainment. There are new source performance standards, prevention of significant deterioration standards, and new standards for PM. If that was not enough of a challenge, there are governments and NGO’s that took an interest in the facility. There is the city of Cloumbia, Richland County, and Columbia is the state capitol.There are also civic organizations and real estate organizations interested in making sure that this unit did not have detrimental effects on their livihood or property.

    The system was a modified dutch kiln that would produce coal gas, while enabling the steam production to reach reduced NOx and PM. The low volume of air to wood would mean less PM entrapment, and a way to control for NOx in the steam generation stage. This is not doable in a typical wood boiler without resorting to enhanced O2 of some sort, NH3 addition, or some other such as two stage separation, with ultra efficient wet scrubbing, or 5 stage electric precipitators. Of course, IIRC, the problems of explosion from a Coal/NG fuel and high O2 to permit easier sequestering of CO2 has been a subject of a thread here at WUWT. Multistage with scrubbing is messy and tends to clog, and even single stage EP’s can blow up, as can baghouses. So, the idea was to have a system that produced extremely low ash entrainment, and a separate firing sequence in order to have an ultra clean unit.

    Probably one of the worse situations is that with gas fracking and the poor economy, the cost differential is that the pay back period is now much longer than when the design was conceptualized. The extra steps mean greater energy loss, more costly, and more equipment, and more maintenance, as well.

    Looking backwards, the biggest oversight would appear to be safety. I am a USC graduate (twice), and my wife and one of my daughters are graduates as well. We cannot imagine a situation where a student could be killed, and not cause almost insurmoutable problems for the University.

    But as shown here at WUWT at the school yard in England, raptors in US and Greece, there are real problems with siting, and with power generation and transport. This is where it becomes important not only to consider the “green” part, but the “deadly” part as well. Adding modules to a unit, means adding complexity, need for better and more control, and is less efficient and more costly. It is even worse for the diffuse energy sources such as wind and solar. The unintended consequences of any powwer generation need to be examined during the conceptual stage, and the implementation stage. Nor can one aspect, such as cost, cleanliness or whatever, be more predominant than safety, use, or feasibility.

  59. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Ralph on October 10, 2011 at 7:20 am:

    The Fukushima was a similar engineering oversight, just waiting for a disaster. If they had put openable ‘windows’ in the top of the reactor containment buildings, there would not have been a gas build up, and thus no hydrogen explosions. The world would have been a safer place, and all for the want of a ‘window’.

    Slight technical issues with that. Nuclear plants generate Deuterium and Tritium. Especially with radioactive tritium, there are complaints and regulations involved with the release of hydrogen isotopes to the atmosphere, see this HuffPo piece. Small monitored regular releases OK, uncontrolled releases NOT OK.

    So at Fukushima, as seen elsewhere, the containment building retained the hydrogen (including isotopes), it seems likely there was a process in place to do a slow release as authorized as needed during normal plant operations. But under emergency conditions, as happened, the top of the containment buildings were made with “blow-out” panels, releasing the sudden overpressure of an explosion without incurring the damage that would have happened with normal building construction.

    Indeed, as I remember from the news coverage when the cooler heads were commenting, the building looked terrible after the explosions, but that is how they were supposed to look, with the framework and equipment still intact.

    Thus there was not a “similar engineering oversight” at Fukushima.

  60. Nick Shaw says:

    I’m at a loss here. If burning biomass is carbon neutral, why is burning coal not?
    I always though coal was the result of trees and vegetation being covered up and eventually placed under great pressure. So, why is the burning of coal not carbon neutral?
    I guess the same could be applied to oil. Was it not too the result of the deaths of organisms that, at one time, sequestered CO2?
    As to those who criticize the story simply based on the “accident”, you have it wrong and perhaps the thrust of the article should have directed more to this plant producing power only 98 out of 534 days! This is the crux of all “green” energy stories! Their output is woefully short of what they advertise! Yet, none of the technologies is really new! PV has been around a long time. Generators, whether water driven or wind driven have a long history as does gassification.
    If they worked, the private sector would have been all over them a long time ago!

  61. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Ben of Houston on October 10, 2011 at 8:54 am:

    Sorry, but this isn’t about shoddy biofuels, just shoddy construction.

    More broadly, it highlights the “It’s GREEN, therefore it’s good!” mentality. There’s a lot of crap floating around the marketplace with that being the main to the only selling point, with “saves money” often being a faint also-mentioned that doesn’t stand up to real-world scrutiny. Many things don’t make logical sense with proper consideration, after they’ve been on the market for awhile it becomes clear they weren’t very well thought out, but they were GREEN. A reoccurring theme, such ideas refuse to die, and will often be reintroduced to the market, often repackaged, barely as soon the public memory begins forgetting they didn’t work the first time.

    Our ancient ancestors were very Green, with households using durable metal and wood housewares that would last generations. When I look at what my grandparents and parents made do with… Nowadays we use plastic and plastic-encased gadgets that often don’t last five years before needing replacing. This is Green? Is an electric can opener powered by a PV solar system more GREEN than just using a human-powered manual version?

  62. Janice says:

    Well, since this was a “green” biomass project, we’d better not tell them that vegetation, and in particular trees, have a fairly high amount of natural radioactive constituents in them. Which means that the ash has measurable radiation, and any particulates that are released have measurable radiation. Not that measurable means dangerous, but just mentioning radioactivity seems to cause emotional terror to some people.

  63. Ralph says:

    >>Kadaka
    >>Thus there was not a “similar engineering oversight” at Fukushima.

    I understand that under normal operations, the environment around the reactors should be contained. That is a given.

    However, had large panels in the containment building been easily openable with simple cranks and levers (not electric), the build-up of hydrogen could have been released in an emergency and so those hydrogen explosions could have been avoided. Surely you are not implying that those massive explosions were ‘planned’ and an acceptable part of site ‘safety’? In reality, they devastated the buildings; ripped up wiring, pipework and systems; and prevented access to the reactor vessels.

    .

    I daresay a similar oversight was responsible for the explosion at the biomass plant.

    In fact all we ever see with Green technology is failure after failure. Wave generators are regularly destroyed by waves; solar panels degrade much faster than advertised; tidal turbines have their blades ripped off; hydro lakes silt up; biomass plants explode; windelecs fall over; windelecs have continual bearing failures; windelecs regularly catch fire; electric vehicles only do half the advertised milage; hydrogen busses give out more pollutants than diesels**. This is real pipe-dream engineering.

    ** The hydrogen is produced by natural gas reforming, and the plant is in central London.

    .

  64. pk says:

    there is a book entitled STEAM published by the Babcox Wilcox company (my copy is from the thirties) that goes into firing boilers with what the nitwits call biomass fuels.

    they built boilers that used EVERYTHING.

    obviously the school did not know, realize or care that boiler operation needs to be licenced and that just cannot be waivered at a whim. licencing is speciffically set up to avoid problems like this.

    just where is the state licencing board??????

    this is the kind of stuff that ends careers for the building/designing entities.

    by the way wood and wood products fell out of use a long time ago because ov the low heat value of wood as a fuel. this bunch is “reinventing the wheel” and they’re not half as good as the gang was 100 years ago.

    c

  65. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Ralph on October 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm:

    However, had large panels in the containment building been easily openable with simple cranks and levers (not electric), the build-up of hydrogen could have been released in an emergency and so those hydrogen explosions could have been avoided. Surely you are not implying that those massive explosions were ‘planned’ and an acceptable part of site ‘safety’?

    To use such manual controls would have required actual people in the building. Do you want humans around in such a potentially explosive situation? Such operations would normally be carried out in the control room, by remotely-operated electric systems. If there had still been operators present, with sufficient electricity available…

    What was planned for was the possibility of such explosions. So instead of having an all-concrete building, with the force of the blast being directed further into the building and heavy chunks from the top of the containment building falling on the equipment, lightweight panels blew apart and let the brunt of the blast go outside. Much safer than the alternative imho.

    In reality, they devastated the buildings; ripped up wiring, pipework and systems; and prevented access to the reactor vessels.

    The reality is it would have been much worse without the blowout design. Granted, there would have been even less if the hydrogen could have been allowed to vent naturally, perhaps if such vents were opened before the evacuation. But there are other issues involved, such as possible releases of radioactive steam, dictating the design. All in all, what happened didn’t go all that badly, and could have been much worse.

  66. G. Karst says:

    All large industrial processes are inherently hazardous. Academics are not the best people to run such a facility. They are much better at small prototypes to demonstrate principles. GK

  67. johnfpittman says:

    pk brings out a good point. South Carolina is one of the few states that licensed boilers and certified boilermakers is optional. However, there is and was plenty of electricity available. The unit was for seam production for the University and excess steam was for co generation of electricity. The problem was according to some two fold, a problem with the dutch kiln part and a problem with the tranfer part that cuased the two conditions of explosive potential, and ignition. I hope to see a report on the actual causes.

  68. Catcracking says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    October 9, 2011 at 11:55 pm
    “Anone who has ever burned wood knows that there is a lot of ash left that needs to be disposed. This is green? And they shut down clean gas fied boilers to fire up this polluting mess? Also keep in mind that wood like coal can have all kinds of nasty chemicals like mercury, etc. that are difficult to remove.
    ————
    So according to this theory everytime there is a brushfire the state has to strip the contaminated and mercury polluted ash from thousands of acres and bury it in landfill.”

    “And I thought ash was plant food. Silly me.”

    Silly yes!!
    To compare a concentrated ash collection from a wood burning gasifier farm that could leach into a stream or into the water table to a brush fire that spreads the ash out over a large area is silly to be kind. Also if this is a natural fire not manmade the EPA cannot regulate it. They did have a pollution problem from the ash disposal, if you read the article.
    The other point you are missing that some of the mercury, sulfur, and other nasties are also emitted into the atmosphere in the same manner as with coal plants even with best available technology which they may or may not have. Calling this green while condemning coal fired plants is inconsistent.

    Also while I have worked on a lot of gasifiers, I am not an expert on the disposal of the ash, But I do know that the EPA and local authorities do regulate such activities and ash is not green.

  69. _Jim says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says on October 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    What was planned for was the possibility of such explosions. So instead of having an all-concrete building, with the force of the blast being directed further into the building and heavy chunks from the top of the containment building falling on the equipment, lightweight panels blew apart and let the brunt of the blast go outside.

    Excuse me kadaka, but, this is the second time I read this and it was incorrect both times; Rx buildings 3 and 4 were all reinforced concrete on the upper, as you term it ‘containment’ floors … but those aren’t containment floors either so much as they were simply cover for the refueling operations floor when the actual _containment_ vessel was opened to gain access to the actual _reactor_ vessel.

    I have spent hours poring over the photos of all for reactors buildings, I would strongly suggest a brush-up on those buildings and their construction (provided below).

    Incidentally, I don’t think the upper walls on Rx bldlgs 1 and 2 were designed to ‘blow off’ either, even though they were of panel to frame construction. The Containment vessel ducting into the water within the Torus was to ‘handle’ any gases evolved for whatever reason, short, apparently, of core meltdown and voluminous release of Hydrogen gas as well some Oxygen …

    Fukushima pictures may be found at:
    http://cryptome.org/eyeball/daiichi-npp/daiichi-photos.htm

    Complete collection of all visual materials here:
    http://cryptome.org/eyeball/

    .

  70. Gail Combs says:

    #
    #
    Ralph says:
    October 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    >>Kadaka
    >>Thus there was not a “similar engineering oversight” at Fukushima.

    I understand that under normal operations, the environment around the reactors should be contained. That is a given….
    __________________________
    Fukushima is 40 years old and an older design. Given what that plant went through It held up very well. International Atomic Energy Agency Fact finding Report: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/missionsummary010611.pdf

    The WESTERN nuclear industry has a heck of a lot better safety record then the “Green Energy” industry. A summary of wind power accidents/fatalities: http://thenewamerican.com/tech-mainmenu-30/energy/788

  71. Gail Combs says:

    G. Karst says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    All large industrial processes are inherently hazardous. Academics are not the best people to run such a facility. They are much better at small prototypes to demonstrate principles. GK
    ___________________________
    Amen to that!

    In the same city, Columbia SC, a chemist I worked for came up with a “manufacturing process” and scaled from lab bench to full size reactor vessel without a chem Eng or a pilot plant study. Blew the reactor to smithereens.

    Since she had a Phd and I had only a lowly BS in Chem she brushed off my remarks and the remarks of other about the heat of reaction. She had to cool the beaker in Dry Ice and acetone the reaction produced so much heat.

    Being an intelligent sort I took the day off so I would “miss” the explosion.

    You really can’t pound common sense into the ivory tower types especially if they have Phds

  72. Gail Combs says:

    Catcracking says:
    October 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    So according to this theory everytime there is a brushfire the state has to strip the contaminated and mercury polluted ash from thousands of acres and bury it in landfill.”….
    ____________________________
    Maybe not in SC but in MA a guy with a vineyard producing wine had to dispose of the lees (stems, seeds and skins) from the wine pressing as “hazardous waste” and could not compost the lees to add back to his soil.

    It was also illegal for me to give my composted horse manure to my neighbors for their gardens. I ended up trucking it all the way to New Hampshire and giving it to a gardener in that state. The law states you can not add to your compost heap anything that did not originate on your property. I am not sure what the y did about adding Lime.

  73. Catcracking says:

    Gail Combs says:
    October 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Gail,
    The actual comment below was from Lazy … that I was quoting
    “So according to this theory everytime there is a brushfire the state has to strip the contaminated and mercury polluted ash from thousands of acres and bury it in landfill.”….”

    Sorry If I mislead you.
    BTW the info you provided confirms that the environmental agencies totally lack common sense.
    Similarly my gas station owner advise me several years ago that while his fuel tanks were not leaking, the small amount of gasoline spillage required digging up the tanks, removing a huge amount of soil, shipping the soil to a neighboring state for a short while to air out, then selling it back to clients in NJ as topsoil.

  74. Rob says:

    Jee. 73 posts after a minor boiler explosion without injuries, and the University gets their money back.

    Why the fuzz ? Oh. It’s because it was powered by wood chips. So it was a “Green FAIL”. And of course there were FOIA requests involved, so it sounds really serious.

  75. pk says:

    any time you have a “happenin” in a boiler plant where a fairly large piece of the action goes flying across the inside of the building the operators, engineers and supervisors get just a little excited.

    they usually want to fix it right away because their reason for being is being “on line” and they are happiest when the plant is operating and clean.

    C

  76. Pascvaks says:

    Ref – Rob says:
    October 10, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    It has much more to do with the circular thinking of Greenies, the waste of precious wood chips and sewage, and the extravagant burning of Chinese money, which we can ill afford to continue burning these days. They are not made of money you know. Well, not entirely. There is more to being an All-American 21st Century Scientist than flying kites in thunder storms or reverse-processing sewage in Columbia SC with a rather expensive collection of pipes and valves and guages. Please! Get with the program! (And, remember, we’re broke; in more ways than one. Have you been to Wall Street lately?)

  77. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From _Jim on October 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm: (out of sequence)

    Incidentally, I don’t think the upper walls on Rx bldlgs 1 and 2 were designed to ‘blow off’ either, even though they were of panel to frame construction.

    As memory serves me of the news coverage, it was unit 1 (going by your first link) they were looking at when the expert commentator mentioned the blowout construction, I remember that clean framework. It sure sounded from his tone that such would be expected at that plant.

    From those pics, yes 3 and 4 do have reinforced concrete walls. But the roofing materials look to have been blown off cleanly, on unit 4 the framing survived rather well.

    Thus it does appear that blowout construction was employed, with the design shifted between the units. Although given the damage I’d say the blasts were more powerful than expected.

    Rx buildings 3 and 4 were all reinforced concrete on the upper, as you term it ‘containment’ floors … but those aren’t containment floors either so much as they were simply cover for the refueling operations floor when the actual _containment_ vessel was opened to gain access to the actual _reactor_ vessel.

    Not “containment floors” but just the top of the building for the containment structure. That’s just semantics, not worth quibbling about.

    The Containment vessel ducting into the water within the Torus was to ‘handle’ any gases evolved for whatever reason, short, apparently, of core meltdown and voluminous release of Hydrogen gas as well some Oxygen …

    Hydrogen, of course, is notoriously difficult to contain, leaking out of little tiny gaps and cracks. It is not realistic to assume the containment vessel will always contain all of it. Once escaped, it would rise due to being such a light molecule. A possible buildup at the top of the structure should be expected even under normal plant operations.

    In such not-normal conditions, with the cooling system shut down, possibly compromised, and evaporation taking place (steam releases included), a hydrogen buildup should be viewed as a certainty. Planning for it is logical, and blowout construction makes sense.

  78. Justa Joe says:

    In the big scheme of things is there really enough wood chips laying around to make a significant amount of energy that would ever displace the need for a real conventional power plant? I could see the actual wood processing plants, lumber yards, etc using the stuff on site but trucking this stuff around to college campuses (or campi) and other far flung destinations seems like a waste of time and diesel fuel.

  79. pk says:

    paper and cardboard plants use houmoungas tonnages of “wood chips”. that is solid wood broken up into pieces about the size and thickness of a matchbook. they inspect the incomming loads and if there is bark, garbage, dead hogs, live fungus………..in the load they reject it. then the shipper has to get rid of it. i believe that the college system can use this stuff and if they can they probably will have a very large source of fuel for free. there was a raw pulp plant just west of missoula montana that accepted ~5000 tons of chips a day and they used to say that the really big outfits were in the south.

    C

  80. pk says:

    by the way if the college had said right from the get go that this was a semi experimental setup and not have claimed to be able to paint the moon with the “savings” they wouldn’t look half so dumb.

    C

  81. Roger Knights says:

    Bloomberg
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Files for Bankruptcy, Lawyer Says
    October 12, 2011, 2:11 AM EDT

    The state capital of 49,500 faces a debt burden five times its general-fund budget because of an overhaul and expansion of a trash-to-energy incinerator that doesn’t generate enough revenue.

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-12/harrisburg-pennsylvania-files-for-bankruptcy-lawyer-says.html

  82. ok@hotmail.com says:

    wow and i though wind-farms was the most dangerous industry in the world. They have several times the injury and death rate per hour worked. And several hundred times if you look at KW/h generated.

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