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Lafarge Canada has started the foundations for upgrades to enable tires to be burned as fuel in the kiln at their cement plant. - Herald File
Lafarge Canada has started the foundations for upgrades to enable tires to be burned as fuel in the kiln at their cement plant. - Herald File

All the hurdles have been cleared for Lafarge Canada to burn tires in the kiln in its cement plant near Brookfield.

“We have started the concrete foundations and the roadwork we need to get ready for the project,” Robert Cumming, environmental director for the company, said in a recent interview. “The equipment is ordered and it will be delivered over the next couple of months. Throughout the first three months of next year, we’ll be building the system, testing it, to see that it meets all electrical and structural requirements. The plant will be shut down at that time as it normally is in the winter.”

The provincial Environment Department issued industrial approval in October for a one-year pilot project to be conducted in conjunction with a Dalhousie University research team, a project that will have Lafarge burn about 350,000 tires as fuel for the kiln.

The project has drawn a lot of criticism.

In the summer of 2017, a residents group filed notice with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for a judicial review of the initial government decision to allow the pilot project. The group claimed the minister failed to properly consult the public, to protect human health and to prevent pollution.

Justice James Chipman dismissed the complaint.

The company predicts its tire-burning project will reduce carbon emissions in one year at the plant by 30 per cent for every tonne of coal and petcoke fuel replaced by tires. It also predicts a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in the nitrogen oxides that form smog and acid rain and constitute most air pollutants. The company expects “benign” changes in other emissions.

The residents group says that burning tires will emit dangerous, inhalable fine particulate matter, toxic metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.

The plan to pay Lafarge to take discarded tires has also come under fire.

There are about one-million tires discarded every year in the province. Divert Nova Scotia, a not-for-profit corporation that operates at arm’s-length from government, picks up the $4.50 per tire environmental fee that Nova Scotia consumers pay for tires at retail outlets. Through its tire management program, Divert had been paying a $200 per tonne fee to C&D Recycling in Goodwood for taking the discarded tires and shredding them into aggregate that can be used for highways, retaining walls, drainage, foundation backfilling and other products. Lafarge’s bid landed the cement company 30 per cent of the province’s discarded tires over a five-year period. The company will be paid $105 per tonne by Divert to take the tires each year, if the pilot project is extended.

“We are opposed to the idea that Lafarge is going to get paid to burn tires,” said Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre. “I thought we’d agreed as a province that subsidies are not a good thing, not a way to run a business and not how we wanted to attract or keep businesses here in Nova Scotia. The fact that you and I or anybody who has a car and buys tires is subsidizing the operation, we would ask that they not get that. I certainly don’t want to be subsidizing a multinational to do what I consider to be an environmentally inappropriate activity. It hasn’t passed the test for us.

“We’re quite upset with Divert. We think Divert has lost its way. Why they supported this was never clear to us.”

Neither is Butler convinced that the project will reduce emissions.

“I don’t think its going to reduce overall emissions for Nova Scotia,” Butler siad.

Cumming said the company will hold some form of an open house when the system is in good working order “to invite our neighbours to come and see the system and talk to the company (Air Testing Services) that will be doing the emission testing.”

Cumming said the tires will be delivered by truck to the plant and offloaded to a conveyor that will weigh each tire and bring it to the top of the kiln. From there, the tires will slide down a vertical hook elevator to mid-kiln trap doors that will open to accept the tires. The tires disentegrate in milliseconds in a flue gas temperature of thousands of degrees Celsius, about a quarter of the temperature of the sun’s surface, Cumming said.

“That’s what we need to make cement,” he said. “That whole feed system had to be ordered, installed, wired up.”

The kiln will burn only smaller tires that had been used on cars and light trucks. There will be a limited storage space constructed to keep about four days’ worth of tires but mostly they will be sent to the kiln as they arrive by truck, Cumming said.

A March or April startup of the plant is likely and the tire-burning project should be a go shortly after that.

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