Test results show reduced ethanol plant odor

By Katrina Vander Kooi

"We have some good news and some bad news and some news that is both good and bad," said Chuck McGinley at the beginning of the Ethanol meeting on Thursday night.

According to McGinley, consulting engineer, odors were reduced 20 percent overall from the last test in April 1999.

The meeting was called because the test results were back from the June 5 odor test.

Members of the Concerned Citizens for the Quality of Life, as well as Rick Serie, manager of Agri-Energy, and McGinley were present.

McGinley handed out two charts, which showed the changes in odor concentration between the two tests, and the second was a pie chart that documented where the odor was coming from.

Much of the odor, 82 percent, is coming from the dryer. Serie announced that Agri-Energy will install a scrubber in the dryer stack, which, according to McGinley, will reduce the odor by 25 percent more, and will reduce the air chemicals by 80 or 90 percent. Serie questioned the assesment by stating that the St. Paul plant reduced the odor by 45 to 50 percent.

Serie expects the scrubber to be installed by the second week in August of this year. "That's great news!" said Karen Van Wettering, CCQL member.

After the scrubber is installed, Agri-Energy continue its plan of action. "We will do some performance tests to see where we're at," Serie said.

Concerned Citizens

McGinley then asked the residents to give their opinion on the progress of the ethanol plant. "The bottom line with the odor issue is that the citizens will talk about how much is enough," McGinley said.

Many spoke on the results. "We live straight south of it, and I haven't really noticed any improvement," Bob Kaczrowski, CCQL member, said.

"We haven't noticed much difference," Dave Knips said. "It's annoying enough that you want to do something."

"I live in the middle of town, and I get a smell more often now," Keith Erickson, Luverne City Council member, said. "It's not overly powerful, but it's coming in more often."

The results from the tests citizens conducted on their own could not be compiled. "We don't have enough log sheets turned in to have a statistic," McGinley said.

Many CCQL members wondered if McGinley could collect samples from around Luverne. "It's possible to collect downward samples, but it's not easy," McGinley said. According to him, the sample needs to be collected in the same place for an hour, and the plume moves more often than that.

Improvement options

McGinley gave Agri-Energy a few new ideas for stopping the odor.

He suggested a thermal oxidizer. A thermal oxidizer sits on the ground and incinerates all of the emissions from the plant. It also recovers the heat and makes steam for the plant. A large thermal oxidizer could be placed on the dryer but would cost more than $1 million, but McGinley also suggested a smaller one that would fit on the fermentation stack. It performs the same process but is smaller. "It has not been proven that this works in ethanol plants," Serie said. "And that we are waiting for the results of their tests in St. Paul."

A biofilter was another option McGinley offered. "It is a bed of chips. Air goes through it, and the bacteria in the chips kills the odor," McGinley said.

"The meeting was the first time I had heard of that," Serie said. "We will research anything, but I think it may be unsanitary, or it may not be cost effective."

A member of the CCQL wondered if the fermentation stack could also be raised to get rid of the odor.

"It could be raised, but it would be better to stop the smell at its source," McGinley said.

According to McGinley, there is no set way to handle the problem. "It's a journey of the ethanol industry," McGinley said. "We're still learning."

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