South Carolina biomass explosion raises questions about safety of UM project
I’ve argued against Biomass since the 80’s and will remind everyone that the real impetus for burning wood & plant matter comes from the “Split wood not atoms” crowd of old guard Greenpeacers.
An article in the Oct. 9 issue of The State newspaper described the “biomass plant debacle” in South Carolina. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, South Carolina’s largest newspaper obtained documents that pieced together a story of poor planning and installation of that university’s biomass boiler.
In June 2009, the South Carolina boiler caused a “potentially lethal accident,” according to The State. A piece of sheet metal shot across the USC power plant with such force that the university called for an independent safety review before allowing its staff to return to work. That explosion followed two previous smaller explosions and a series of mechanical breakdowns.
In March of this year, the university closed the plant following three dozen previous shutdowns. Some university officials have equated its value to scrap metal.
“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,” according to The State.
The company the article refers to is not Nexterra, but Johnson Controls Inc. of Wisconsin, the general contractor on the project. Nexterra, the developer and manufacturer of the high-tech gasification system, is not mentioned in the article. It’s the first time, in fact, that Nexterra has provided parts for a biomass boiler and not the entire heating system, said Darcy Quinn, Nexterra’s manager of marketing and business development.
UM has been aware of South Carolina’s troubles for some time, but Bob Duringer, UM vice president of administration and finance, said he isn’t concerned about moving forward. Duringer said he was told that the blast at USC was the result of operator error, not mechanical failure.