Work begins on energy facility

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From left, Skip Smith of GPC Green Energy, Brian Murer of H.C. Yu and Associates, and Ryan Nelms of Ryan Construction Company stand near the future site of the BASF co-generation facility, which will convert landfill gas into energy for the BASF buildings and area homes.

Construction began this month on an energy facility that is expected to create new jobs, take pollutants out of the city’s atmosphere and power thousands of area homes.

The new facility at BASF on Wilroy Road will collect gas produced by rotting trash at the regional landfill and convert it into electricity. That electricity then would be used to power all operations at BASF. Excess electricity — enough to power 3,000 to 4,000 Suffolk homes — would be sold to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

“It’s just a win-win for the whole area,” said Brian Murer of H.C. Yu and Associates, an engineering consulting firm that is working on the project.

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The new facility, expected to be complete by August, should bring 10 permanent green energy jobs. According to Ryan Nelms of Ryan Construction Company, which is working on the project, his company employed 60 people for the last construction job it did for BASF, in addition to about 300 more from various industries who also worked on that project.

The new facility also will take pollutants, including sulfurs and carbon dioxide, out of the air. The gases are generated by rotting trash at the regional landfill, and currently are used in smaller volumes by BASF. The rest currently is flared off at the landfill, which means the gases escape into the atmosphere.

“We’re eliminating all of the pollution from the landfill and from the boilers here,” said Skip Smith of GPC Green Energy. “Right now it’s being wasted, completely wasted. We’re stripping everything.”

Smith said the project should not have any negative effects on the surrounding community. Noise, exhaust and visibility all will be minimal.

“Noise pollution will be very little,” he said. “We’re very well noise-protected. The exhaust will be one-tenth of the allowed permit.”

Once construction is complete and the facility is operational, the new process should help reduce the odor issue residents close to the landfill have been living with for more than a year, Smith said.

BASF also has committed to ultimately expanding the project to include a second combustion turbine, Smith said.

GPC Green Energy will be the final owner of the facility. Suffolk Energy Partners also is involved, because it has the rights to the regional landfill’s gas.

“We’re just proud to be involved with it,” Nelms said.