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Ethanol Plant Pays the Price for Polluting the Air with Multiple Emissions
Ethanol Plant Pays the Price for Polluting the Air with Multiple Emissions

Ethanol Plant Pays the Price for Polluting the Air with Multiple Emissions

  • 18-May-2023 12:43 PM
  • Journalist: Sasha Fernandes

United States: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has reported that a plant in north-central Iowa, responsible for Ethanol production, has failed to comply with air pollution control standards. POET Bioprocessing located in Iowa Falls, owned by South Dakota-based company POET, was found to have emitted hazardous chemicals repeatedly for over a year due to poor equipment maintenance. The department has imposed a maximum administrative fine of $10,000 on the company. POET operates 33 facilities across eight states, including the Iowa Falls site which was acquired from Flint Hills Resources in June 2021.

The company has recently disclosed to the DNR that its fermentation process has resulted in at least 10 cases of excessive emissions. The process involves the conversion of corn sugars into Ethanol by yeast, which emits harmful pollutants such as Carbon Dioxide. According to the DNR, the facility's operators have not adequately maintained and operated emissions-control devices, leading to the emission of Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Methanol and volatile organic compounds. This facility produces over 115 million gallons of Ethanol annually.

Fuel blended with Ethanol has become increasingly popular due to its ability to reduce pollution emissions from vehicles compared to unblended gasoline. This trend has resulted in a greater demand and increased prices for corn in Iowa due to the Ethanol industry. POET, a company dedicated to sustainability, is working with an agency to resolve any issues identified by the DNR. The company remains committed to operating their facilities with excellence and upholding their mission.

According to the DNR order, POET reported excessive emissions due to temporary failures of emissions control equipment, maintenance issues, or safety valve releases caused by high pressures. To bring its emissions into compliance, the facility reduced its production rate in June 2022. However, the DNR noted that POET postponed compliance testing supervised by the department, knowing that it would reveal a violation. The DNR considered this delay as credible evidence of a violation in a notice issued in February 2022.

According to a recent administrative order, a compromise was reached between the department and the company after negotiations. As part of the negotiation process, POET sent a letter to the DNR in December, stating that the company had not intentionally obstructed the DNR's oversight by delaying compliance tests. POET Iowa Falls clarified that they did not attempt to prevent direct observation of a noncompliant stack test to avoid violating regulations. Instead, they took immediate action to minimize excess emissions upon discovery and implemented corrective measures to reduce any adverse effects on the environment.

According to state records, the company has reported over 12 emissions violations to the DNR in the past year, with the most recent one being in January. As per the DNR order, POET must provide a detailed explanation of excessive emissions in 2021 and 2022, along with a plan to prevent such incidents in the future.

The order mandates the company to conduct more frequent emissions testing and prohibits it from delaying compliance tests overseen by DNR staff without prior approval. Additionally, the company agreed to pay the fine of $10,000 and ensure consistent maintenance of its equipment, as stated in the order.

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