CEMEX shifts gears to more environmentally friendly fuel source

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 5, 2005

Disposing of old tires can be an enormous nuisance and an environmental danger. Fortunately, one local plant is doing their part to improve the situation.

CEMEX of Demopolis is in the process of using old tires to replace coal as their primary fuel.

John Laney, plant manager of CEMEX, said the wheels are in motion to make this project a reality.

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“We have an application for a project with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management,” Laney said. “We are just asking for approval.”

The proposal for this center, which was approved by the council at their Thursday meeting, would allow the plant to use tire-derived fuels. The State of Alabama defines tire-derived fuel as use of old car tires and old truck tires as replacement for coal as a fuel.

Laney said the project was important to the plant and the environment. He said there were many advantages to using a tire-derived fuel.

“The project that we propose is important to the cement plant here in town and it is also an environmentally sound project,” Laney said. “It is environmentally sound because the project that we propose to do will use somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million tires a year at our plant. Those million and a half tires we use wont end up on the side of the road or in a landfill so it will extend the life of landfills.”

The other part of the environmental soundness of a tire derived fuel is that for every ton of tires that is used a little more than a ton of coal will not be used because by definition, tire derived fuel is used as a replacement for coal, a non-replinishable resource.

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said she was very grateful for the company’s planning and concern.

“We certainly appreciate CEMEX’s environmental efforts,” Williamson said. “I think this will be wonderful.”

The new fuel will also benefit the pants job security. Laney said the ability of the plant to use tire-derived fuel would help them stay competitive.

“One of the main reasons it is important is because there are five cement companies in the state of Alabama,” Laney said. “All five of these are very competitive with each other. Currently two of these already have tire derived fuel systems operating at their plants. Another two have permanent applications to get them. It is a matter of us trying to stay competitive with our competition for the security of the people that work at the plant.”

Once the plant has the proper boiler system in place they will construct an area to receive the tires. The tires will be brought in on trucks where a platform will be waiting to receive them. Laney said the tires would be carefully stored to avoid accidents.

There were some concerns over emissions from burning tires. Tire fires are known to produce heavy smoke and toxins. However, Laney said the emissions would be about the same as coal.

“The emissions will not be worse than what they are right now from the coal,” Laney said. “The tires are typically 1.2 percent Sulfur and coal is also typically 1.2 percent Sulfur too. From that perspective you are exchanging like for like.”

Demopolis City Councilmember Melvin Yelverton said he has seen the plants in action and did not feel the emissions would be greater than the current level.

“I have toured some places that had this in place and it is no worse than any plant around,” Yelverton. “It really can be a good thing.”

The difference in this procedure and a tire fire is the level of the burn. The heavy black smoke and ash from uncontrolled tire fires leave the impression that all tire burning is bad. But those kinds of uncontrolled burns at low temperatures in the open air are nothing like burning tires at high temperatures in a controlled environment like a boiler.

Another advantage of this method is that it used the entire tire. When the tire is burned the entire product is used steel belts and all. The only tires that can’t be used are tires that are still on the rim or too wide to fit in the drop zone.

Laney said there is a possibility that they could use local tires. He said CEMEX would be willing to work with the city and county.

We would be willing to work with the city if you wanted to have a clean up day where you take the tires and put them on a truck or trailer we would help with that,” Laney said. “We are more than willing to work with the community on a clean up day or something like that, but we have to make sure the tires can be satisfactory.”

CEMEX hopes to have the project complete sometime around May or June.