Rock-Tenn paper recycling plant loses steam.

Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn currently uses steam heat generated by the coal fired Xcel High Bridge plant. When that source of steam is shut off this summer, Rock-Tenn will fire up its old boilers and begin burning fuel oil or natural gas. This will increase their energy costs by four to six million dollars annually but could go much higher depending upon the volatile international energy markets.

The Rock-Tenn plant processes half of all paper recycled in Minnesota (about 1000 tons per day). Rock-Tenn (formerly Waldorf Paper) employs about 500 people at an average salary of $60,000 and spends about $75 million on goods and services yearly.

St. Paul Port Authority, to the rescue.

The St. Paul Port Authority, a non-profit municipal corporation, with its mission of job creation and retention, plans to build a new fuel plant for Rock-Tenn. Big bucks are involved. Current estimates are about $140 million. District Energy, a private, non-profit corprtion, and Market Street Energy, its for-profit affiliate will run the Rock-Tenn power plant (they currently run the St. Paul district heating and cooling).

Law makers propose $4 million to study idea.

The proposed Midway biomass power plant picked up some steam May 1st when members of the Minnesota Legislature included $4 million to study the idea in their environment, energy, and natural resources bill. The bill also allows for regular input from four district councils (near University Avenue and Vandalia Street) and by business and labor interests.

Big, important issues involved.

Coming up with an environmentally friendly biomass source that is technically and economically workable is a task that involves many important issues.

Municipal waste disposal.
Resource Recovery Technologies (RRT) runs a processing plant in Newport, MN that converts municipal solid waste (MSW) to refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The RRT plant gets municipal solid wastes from Ramsey and Washington counties, which subsidize its operation. Read more about municipal waste disposal here.

Energy from renewable fuel sources.

Ramsey and Washington counties support an RDF fuel source for the Rock-Tenn plant as a way to provide both fuel for Rock-Tenn and a "market" for the counties' municipal solid wastes. Other biomass fuel choices exist—among them, woody wastes, agricultural wastes and crops grown specifically for fuel. The choice of fuel for the Rock-Tenn power plant has implications for the municipal solid waste system, but also for air quality, property taxes, agriculture and farmers, and the future of recycling. tcdailyplanet

Who pays? Who profits?
The St. Paul Port Authority, Ramsey County, Washington County and the City of St. Paul are among the public entities whose decisions factor in the process, including decisions on financing and public subsidies. I recommend reading TCPlanet's, "Follow the money" and "Keeping track of the players".

Environmental impacts.
A proposal would need to be made to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. After the MPCA evaluates this worksheet, it will decide whether a full-scale (time-consuming and expensive) Environmental Impact Statement is necessary.

"a biomass plant has impacts both 'upstream' and 'downstream' of the plant. Upstream impacts include the impacts of growing, harvesting, processing and transporting the biomass. ... Downstream impacts include noise and health impacts from air and water emissions and ash disposal. Air emissions have the most significant downstream impacts." Green Institute study(pdf)

What do you think?

Refuse-derived fuel, known as RDF, raises health and quality of life issues, issues that hopefully will be resolved with fully informed, scientific reasoning. You can get started by following some of the links above.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

gasmask's picture
gasmask says:

I would like to see you report on the scientific research and opposition stance of Neighbors Against the Burner who have uncovered serious toxic emissions from burning RDF and serious health hazards to any kind of incineration. Incineration of all kinds, even with state of the art burners, emit nan- particulates that get into the blood stream and increase the incidence of heart disease, asthma and other respiratory functions.
Burning garbage, and yes, check it out, RDF, refuse derived fuel, is just that. RDF is garbage. The toxic emission from burning garbage include dioxin, furans, mercury, lead and any number of toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer, neuruological diseases such as ADD, ADHD, autism and more. I look forward to following your reporting on both sides of this issue.

posted on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 11:06pm
bill alkofer's picture
bill alkofer says:

Please cite sources for your so-called statistics from peer-reviewed journals
Also comparison to similar plants that have went online in past five years such as the plant in City of Commerce.


posted on Fri, 09/07/2007 - 1:33pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I understand that folks are upset when they read about the pollutants in refuse-derived fuels (RDFs). But Rock-Tenn is a company that no one wants to see leave the city, and they're between a rock and a hard place: Xcel Energy is cutting them off, so they have to burn SOMETHING. And the choice is heavy fuel oil, or RDF. I'm going to look for some comparisons between the two...

Also, just a side note: no one knows what causes autism. Study after study has looked for an autism/mercury link, and it just hasn't been found. Obviously, pollution in general is unhealthy for children and other living things. But let's tone down the rhetoric and not scare people with "facts" that just aren't true.

posted on Fri, 09/07/2007 - 1:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think it would be a great addition to the the rock-tenn plant to see them burn a product like RDF, instead of the garbage going to the landfills. there are many different sources out there for fuel, why be so closed minded on one subject. i feel some people in the city, and nation that don't understand where the electricity comes from when they flip a switch on! educate yourself for one, then maybe try scare tactic. RDF isnt any worse to burn then anything else that is fueling the nation for the electric needs.

posted on Thu, 08/14/2008 - 10:27pm
Big Bob's picture
Big Bob says:

It would be much better to burn RDF than the diesel and No. 6 fuel oil (dirty stuff) they can burn. Also, given the age of their boilers, they are not using any control equipment. If they burned RDF they would be required to have state of the art controls.

The worst-case is if they close down and all the paper is shipped out of state or to a new as to be built plant in the boonies. Think of all the diesel emissions from those trucks. Ick! Way worse than the RDF.

posted on Thu, 11/04/2010 - 1:58pm

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