Burning scrap tires as fuel

April 10, 1995|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Lehigh Portland Cement Co. will begin testing equipment on one of four cement kilns next month for its tire burning project at the company's Union Bridge plant.

The project, in the works for two years, is an attempt to burn scrap tires as fuel in the kilns instead of coal. The company hopes to replace 18 percent of its coal fuel with burned tires.

"The idea is to burn tires, which have high heat value, in place of some of the coal," said David Roush, Lehigh's plant manager.

Beginning in late May, Lehigh plans to install equipment on one of its four cement kilns that will allow for the introduction of whole tires.

"We've designed, built and tested it in our shop, and it worked great, but we need to find out if it will actually work in real conditions," Mr. Roush said.

"Tires are an environmental problem, a disposal problem and a potential burning problem," he said. "Not only can we completely consume the tires for a useful purpose, we get a low-cost source of fuel, compared to coal, and conserve the limited natural resource of coal."

Mr. Roush said Lehigh will acquire the tires from a variety of sources, including Carroll County collection facilities and private tire dealers. He said that the tires will be provided free to the company and that Lehigh will collect a small tipping fee for taking the tires.

Lehigh began working on its tire-burning project more than two years ago. After securing state permits to burn, haul and store tires, the project was delayed when another company filed a lawsuit against Lehigh for infringement of patent rights on its tire injection system, said Herbert W. Weller, Lehigh's lab supervisor.

The lawsuit was settled a few months ago, he said.

Lehigh plans to spend $1.5 million to $2 million on equipment for the tire burning system and hire four employees to operate the machinery, Mr. Weller said.

Company officials refused to estimate how much Lehigh would save in fuel costs through the project.

"It is significant enough for us to go forward with the project," said Elizebeth H. Mikols, Lehigh's manager of environmental affairs at company headquarters in Allentown, Pa.

The tires will be burned in the rotary kilns, welded steel shells that are 400 feet long and 11 feet in diameter. Powered by pulverized coal and waste oil, the rotating kilns melt the raw material used to make cement. The temperature inside the kiln ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The burning will occur rapidly, Mr. Weller said, "with no odor and no black smoke." He said excess oxygen and high temperatures will make the burning process a clean one.

Barring complications on the equipment tests, Mr. Roush said, Lehigh plans to have its three other kilns burning tires by early next year.

With all four kilns burning tires, the company expects to burn between 2 million and 2.5 million tires a year, Mr. Weller said.

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