Company Has Filed
TDEC For New
Air Quality Permits
BY MICHAEL S. RENEAU
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
If state and federal regulators eventually approve new air quality permit applications filed in November, US Nitrogen won't be the only company operating at its 500-acre site off Pottertown Road.
US Nitrogen submitted applications to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) on Nov. 20 for permits to build two new additions to the liquid-ammonium-nitrate-producing plant:
* a facility to be operated by Norwegian company Yara that will produce calcium nitrate (which is neither explosive nor flammable) and
* another, entirely separate facility that will capture carbon dioxide gas emitted by US Nitrogen, convert it to a liquid -- a process known as liquefaction -- and sell the liquid carbon dioxide to other companies.
US Nitrogen hasn't yet decided what company would handle the carbon liquefaction, according to Austin Powder Vice President and CFO Jim Boldt and US Nitrogen Project Manager Justin Freeark.
Austin Powder Co., based in Cleveland, Ohio, is the parent company of US Nitrogen, and Boldt has been heavily involved in developing the US Nitrogen facility off Pottertown Road at Midway.
In an interview this week, Boldt said that working with other companies can boost US Nitrogen's profitability. "It gives us the chance to earn some incremental revenue," he said.
Boldt said US Nitrogen and Yara haven't officially signed an agreement, but US Nitrogen is submitting permit applications to regulators in the expectation that an agreement would soon be complete.
According to Freeark, the Yara plant could employ up to 50 people and produce up to 50,000 tons of calcium nitrate per year. The facility would cost $12-13 million and occupy about four acres at US Nitrogen's site.
The liquid ammonium nitrate that US Nitrogen will produce at its Greene County plant comes from the combination of nitric acid and anhydrous ammonia.
If allowed by TDEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Yara facility would combine US Nitrogen's nitric acid with limestone trucked in from area quarries to create liquid calcium nitrate, according to permit applications filed with TDEC.
That substance is used as an additive in concrete and in water treatment plants, Freeark said
Yara, a company that produces agricultural products such as fertilzer, would then sell the calcium nitrate to its customers.
US Nitrogen's air quality permit application states that up to three trucks would bring limestone to the Yara facility per day.
That limestone would mix with nitric acid piped into Yara's facility from the US Nitrogen plant.
From there the substances would be mixed and would pass through a series of filtration processes before being put in a storage tank and pumped into trucks for delivery to customers -- 10 tankers per day, according to the application.
The process would somewhat change the emissions levels of US Nitrogen, which is what spurred the new applications, Boldt explained.
Yara's prospective facility would increase particulate matter (solid material floating in the air, usually finer than dust) from limestone delivery and increased use of roads near the plant. The facility would emit a vapor containing water, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.
Nitrogen oxide emissions are contributors to smog and air quality problems.
Lacey Hardin, TDEC's Chief of Permitting and Regulatory Development for the Division of Air Pollution Control, said in an interview this week that it's the most significant pollutant resulting from the potential Yara facility.
US Nitrogen is currently talking with several companies about operating the facility to capture the plant's carbon dioxide emissions and turn them into a liquid used in products such as carbonated beverages and dry ice.
According to US Nitrogen's air quality permit application, up to 80 percent of the plant's carbon dioxide emissions could be converted to liquid carbon dioxide and sold.
US Nitrogen's carbon dioxide would be piped to the new facility, where it would undergo a series of steps to purify it and convert it to a liquid.
From there the liquid carbon dioxide would be stored in one of two 450-ton storage tanks on-site before being shipped out via truck.
The liquefaction plant could produce up to 270 tons of liquefied carbon dioxide per day. As many as 15 truckloads could be shipped from the plant per day.
The only proposed emissions from the liquefaction facility would be carbon dioxide that hits the atmosphere during the liquefaction process, and dust kicked up by trucks coming and going to and from the plant.
Freeark said the liquefaction plant would reduce the overall emissions of US Nitrogen's facilities by using carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere.
Hardin, of TDEC, said in the interview this week that state regulators had been hoping since US Nitrogen's inception that an operation such as the liquefaction facility would come to the site.
If it comes to fruition, it would be the first such facility in Tennessee to her knowledge, she said.
"This liquefaction facility will be a great benefit in reducing their carbon dioxide emissions," she said. "This is going to be a tremendous help."
Now that TDEC has officially received the permit applications from US Nitrogen, the agency will have 30 days to determine whether it has everything it needs to move forward with the various steps involved in the permitting procedure.
If more information is needed in order for the permitting process to proceed, US Nitrogen will have the opportunity to provide those materials.
Once the necessary materials have been provided to TDEC, the agency has six months to decide whether or not to grant US Nitrogen the requested permits for the new facilities.
That process will involve at least one public hearing for citizens to offer their input, as well as periods during which the public may submit written comments on the applications.
Hardin said TDEC can only take into account technical concerns about the proposals. "The 'not in my backyard' comments won't be taken into account," she said.
Both the applications themselves and the public comments about them will be made available at TDEC field offices and public libraries. US Nitrogen will have 10 days to respond to any public comments it wishes to answer.
TDEC will take into account US Nitrogen's application materials and public comments while making its decision, along with heavy input from the EPA, Hardin said.
"[EPA staff] will have comments we will have to resolve before issuing the permit," she said. "They already have the application in Atlanta [at the EPA Region IV headquarters], and they're looking at them."
US NITROGEN WATER SUPPLY
In the interview this week with The Greeneville Sun, US Nitrogen's Boldt and Freeark said the company is also working to resolve challenges relating to making sure the plant's water-related needs are handled adequately.
Questions have arisen about how fully current infrastructure in Midway would be able to meet the water-related needs of the facility once it is operational late next year.
Company officials are currently working with several other agencies to develop a solution, Boldt said.