Lafarge is proposing exploration of the use of alternative fuels as a future source for the cement-making process.
The Exshaw and area community received a crash course on alterative fuels, or low carbon fuels, on Feb. 15 at an open house at Exshaw School.
Lafarge at Exshaw, and third-party experts, discussed the process Lafarge plans to approach on low carbon fuels, and the research and evaluation for eight types of alternative fuels considered for use – shingles, tire fluff, carpet and textile, non-recyclable plastics, rubber, wood products, treated wood products, and renovation/demolition waste.
It would include a human health risk assessment study and its environmental footprint, among others.
With no guarantees for the future of coal and natural gas, Exshaw plant manager Jim Bachmann said just about every plant he’s worked at had some sort of low carbon fuel that was burned.
“None of these (alternative fuels) are new to cement plants,” said Bachmann. “(Exshaw’s plant is) one of the last plants in Canada that hasn’t already begun that process.”
Lafarge is also considering the potential for pre-processing alternative fuels on site.
By 2020, Lafarge is looking to replace 30 to 50 per cent of its fossil fuel use at all Canadian plants with low carbon fuels.
According to Lafarge, emissions from cement production worldwide contribute five per cent of CO2 emissions, and 1.4 per cent, nationally.
An option to reduce these emissions, among others, included the use of low carbon fuels. Lafarge will assess introducing low carbon fuels mixed with fossil fuels and document the greenhouse gases and air pollutants that result from burning low carbon fuels.
A Project Advisory Committee (PAC) has been formed to be kept up to date and give opinions on the proposed low carbon fuels process, which includes the Exshaw Community Association (ECA).
“We don’t want to get the cart before the horse, we’ve done that in the past and tried to push it through too quickly and it doesn’t end well,” said Bachmann.
“We wanted to make sure we get a lot of public input and public consultation before we even go for a permit amendment.”
ECA is “very optimistic” about the prospects of maintaining a solid relationship throughout this process, said Michelle Eve, an ECA and PAC member.
“While natural gas delivered by pipe (which is the fuel currently in use) is the least invasive fuel from the community’s perspective, the ECA understands the political and economic realities that require Lafarge to consider alternative fuels,” wrote Eve in an email, on behalf of the ECA.
“The sheer number of potential fuels (eight fuel types are being proposed) is a lot for the community to digest, but the ECA is optimistic that the concerns of Exshaw residents will be alleviated with information and meaningful dialogue.”
Concerns to Lafarge that ECA have brought forward include air quality impacts of burning low carbon fuels and the impact of transporting these fuels into the plant.
Eve said the additional proposal to have a pre-processing facility on site adds another “layer of complexity.
“The ECA will want to ensure this facility is not a noise nuisance, nor an increased risk of a major fire emergency,” she wrote.
Alternative fuels are not a new topic to the Exshaw plant. In 1992, burning tires was investigated as an alternative fuel source for the plant, but ultimately the decision was against it.
“There was an investigation and the idea of recycling would be a better end use,” said Municipal District of Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper.
Cooper added there is a better understanding of climate change nearly a quarter of a century later.