Fibrominn plant on schedule

BENSON -- The construction of the Fibrominn power plant is about 85 percent complete, and the boiler is expected to be fired for the first time in March.

BENSON -- The construction of the Fibrominn power plant is about 85 percent complete, and the boiler is expected to be fired for the first time in March.

The project is progressing as expected, according to Carl Strickler, chief operating officer of Fibrowatt LLC, of which Fibrominn is a subsidiary.

"It's an exciting time for all of us," Strickler said. "The building trades have done an excellent job. It has progressed, from the beginning, quite well."

The Fibrominn facility, located on the west side of the city of Benson, will burn 700,000 tons of turkey litter per year to generate 55 megawatts of electricity. It is the first plant in the United States to burn poultry litter to generate power. The Philadelphia-based Fibrowatt was started by Rupert Fraser, who with his father, founded Fibrowatt Ltd. That company built the world's first three power plants to burn poultry litter, all in the United Kingdom.

All of the major construction work at the Benson facility is complete, said Chuck Wagoner, construction manager for the plant. The fuel hall, the building where trucks will unload the litter, is the last building to be completed. This week, workers were installing the beams on which two 20-ton cranes will maneuver to handle and mix the litter.


The timetable is to fire the boiler in early March, synchronize to the national power grid or begin making power on April 1 and begin commercial operation by the projected date of June 25, Wagoner said. The timetable gives about 60 days to fine-tune the operation of the plant.

"We are on track for that date," Wagoner said. "The job has gone well. We've had an excellent relationship with the building trades."

The mild winters have helped the construction of the plant. The only challenging weather condition has been high winds since the structural steel work began in October 2005.

The plant will actually generate 63 megawatts of power, but will use between six and nine megawatts to operate. Right now, the plant is "backfed," meaning it is currently drawing power in on the lines that will be used to transmit the electricity out to the power grid.

The power generated by the plant will be sold to Xcel Energy. The company will purchase the power as part of a legislative agreement to use renewable energy in exchange for storing spent nuclear rods at its Prairie Island nuclear facility.

The work yet to be completed on the project includes final cable pulling, small bore piping, electrical and instrument work. Schenk Industrial, the boiler contractor, is demobilizing its crew now as final inspections of the boiler are being completed, Wagoner said.

The ash generated at the power plant will be conveyed to the North American Fertilizer LLC facility just southwest of the Fibrominn plant. North Amercian will recondition the ash into agricultural fertilizer. The fertilizer facility is expected to be complete by the start-up date, Wagoner said. However, the enclosed conveyor between the plants may not be installed by that point. In that case, the ash will be transported by truck or container and will not impact operations at Fibrominn.

When complete, the Fibrominn plant will have 30 employees. Aaron Larson, operations and maintenance manager, is advertising and interviewing for the several more employees to complete the staffing needs. Interviews are also going on for the plant manager position.


"We are still looking for people," Larson said, noting that most of the hires have come from the surrounding area, including Willmar, Montevideo and Paynesville.

The employees are currently going through training. Strickler is impressed with them.

"We are pleased with the character and the quality of the people who want to come to work for Fibrominn," he said.

The first firing of the boiler won't be with turkey litter. About 10,000 tons of wood chips from Wisconsin will be hauled in starting Feb. 12 for the early March equipment testing. The first truckloads of litter are expected the first week of March, Wagoner said.

Approximately 100 truckloads of litter will be delivered to the plant each day during the week to fuel the burn rate of 70 tons per hour. The trucks will be directed by an automated, computerized system to weigh in, drive into the fuel hall, dump their 23-ton load and then exit to be weighed, washed and disinfected before exiting the plant's grounds.

The design of the fuel hall will control the odor of the litter. The air for the plant boiler is drawn from the hall, creating a negative air flow in the building. In the event the boiler isn't operating and taking in air, air scrubbers will be activated to control the odor.

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