Co-op’s power plant turns old tires into energy

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MAYSVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ)- Each year, East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s Spurlock Station uses the equivalent of about 2.4 million tires as fuel to make energy for more than 1 million Kentucky residents.

That’s the equivalent of about half of all the waste tires generated by Kentucky in a typical year.

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Tire-derived fuel, or TDF, is a supplemental fuel source for Spurlock Station. Two of the power plant’s generating units incorporate state-of-the art technology that allows them to burn TDF along with coal in the units’ boilers.

That technology vastly reduces emissions, whether the fuel is coal or TDF, making the units among the cleanest in the nation fueled by coal. Recognizing an opportunity, EKPC conducted test burns of waste tires as early as 2005. Today, the plant’s air permit allows TDF for up to 10 percent of fuel by weight in both units.

As the infrastructure for collecting, processing and marketing waste tires has developed, Spurlock Station has become an integral part of the network of disposing of tires.

Last year, more of Kentucky’s waste tires ended up at Spurlock Station than to any other location, according to TAG Resource Recovery, a consultant on waste tires for Kentucky Division of Waste Management.

When TDF arrives at the power plant, it doesn’t look much like the tires on your car. The tires have been cut into small chunks and the metal bead wire has been removed.

The fuel arrives by truck and is stockpiled, said Jacob Bevins, Spurlock’s Materials Handling Operations Supervisor. When it’s ready to go to the boiler, TDF is mixed with coal and transported by conveyor.

Tire-derived fuel burns quite nicely in the power plant’s boiler. On a pound-for-pound basis, the amount of energy released during combustion is higher than the coal typically used in the units.

Importantly, those are tires that don’t end up in a dump.