Ramble On

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fibrowatts Citizen Council in Minnesota - Part 2

For today’s post, I am taking another look at the Citizen’s Advisory Panel in Benson, MN, this time for the period January 2005 – January 2007. For Page County readers who may be interested in checking them out, the minutes are an easy read and you can get through the four years of meetings in less than 2 hours; of course I have summarized them here and yesterday for convenience. The Benson, MN CAP is shown in the photograph here – as with the plant photos, if anyone has a copyright issue with my using this image, please let me know in the comments and I will work with you to make it right.

After Fibrowatt had established itself in the area, the city’s sponsorship was ended and the group operated under the company’s sponsorship. During this period the plant was constructed, and progress tours were a frequent part of the agenda, along with safety and percentage complete briefings. Meetings were not held on a monthly basis, taking place on more like a bi-monthly basis, since efforts were mainly focused on construction at this time and there were few community issues coming up.

The first meeting, January 2005, reported on the financing from Prudential, John Hancock, and others, which was completed in December 2004. Long-lead items had been ordered and were in fabrication, with on-site construction scheduled to begin in the Spring. After selecting the EPC contractor, Fibrowatt arranged introductions for the local companies with the contractor for procurement opportunities.

During the remainder of the 2005 meetings, topics included:

  • Discussion of Fibrowatt’s receipt of a request for information regarding a Maryland Eastern Shore plant
  • Boiler fabrication status and construction of the supporting facilities
  • Public review of plant exterior color
  • Piling status and coordination of schedules to ensure noise management
  • Plant tours, viewing structural steel and foundations progress, as well as computer renderings of major components
  • The lack of community complaints, and the desire of Fibrowatt to keep an open-door policy to allow for resolution should they arise.
In 2006, construction continued in earnest, with 80 craft workers reported as being on site during January. This number grew during the year to 115 in March, and approached 300 by October. Progress continued with a very safe record, the CAP minutes indicate no injuries on the site. And the record does not include any references to community complaints or any issues during the plant construction stage.

There are a couple of references to the stack height at the plant. It was designed to be 300 feet tall, and since the plant site is near the Benson airport, there were FAA compliance issues that needed to be completed, mainly regarding the lighting.

In July, there was discussion of the sourcing area for litter, and the need for a wider geographic area in case of disease or other issues with the growers. Also, there is a reference to the other types of biomass that could be used to mix in with litter, augmenting it and ensuring a consistent fuel supply.

A last item that was covered in significant detail was the ash processing. Ash from the plant contains most of the same chemical and nutrient content as the raw litter, with the exception of the Nitrogen. The ash can be processes into fertilizer, and a company called North American Fertilizer planned to locate a processing plant in close proximity to the Fibrowatt plant. This company met with the CAP to explain how its operation was conducted and to show renderings of the future plant.

The last CAP meeting recorded in these meeting minutes was in January 2007. The plant was at 80 percent complete at that time. No public complaints had been received, and further meetings postponed until later in the Spring, when the plant was anticipated to be complete and in operation.

These meeting minutes can be found at:


No comments: