News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Nucor methane project win-win for firms, public

The Environmental Protection Agency usually doesn't give awards to steel mills. Instead, mills across America are accustomed getting the other end of the EPA's recognition through environmental citations.

Perhaps that's why the EPA's recognition of Nucor Steel is all the more exciting. The EPA named Nucor the agency's 2004 Energy Partner of the Year for its work with methane gas.

The interesting part of this is that Nucor didn't have to undertake the project of teaming with the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program. The steel mill uses methane collected from the Decatur-Morgan County Landfill to help provide fuel to its mini-mill.

The methane, however, provides only about 15 percent of the mill's needs and saves Nucor $150,000 to $250,000 a year, a small amount considering the mill's annual fuel costs.

But the savings are large when it comes to the environment, thus the EPA award.

Morgan County and Decatur also benefit from the some $60,000 earned from the methane project, which has 85 wells and a pipeline to Nucor. The city and county reap added benefit because the infrastructure was paid for by Granger Energy.

Apparently, the methane project is a win-win situation for the companies and the government agencies involved. The public also benefits because the methane gas that once drifted off into the atmosphere is no longer contributing to the greenhouse effect blamed in part for global warming.

Now, the city and county should concentrate on another proposal that also could be a win-win project. It has been suggested that a plasma burner be installed at the landfill. The burner would eventually consume all of the landfill debris, both the new coming in and the old filling cells.

The burning would produce electric power that could be sold to industries or put on the power grid operated by power companies.

A combination of the methane wells and a plasma burner would not only solve this growing area's landfill problems, but would also provide a needed alternative power source for our local industries.

The future is here and it's not too soon to begin planning.

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