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Front Page » March 25, 2004 » Local News » Advisory committee focuses on resolving problems, develop...
Published 4,219 days ago

Advisory committee focuses on resolving problems, developing direction for Nine Mile Canyon in future

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Power plants are located in the eastern Utah area primarily because of the coal deposits that exist in Carbon and Emery counties.

During the years, numerous ancillary businesses have risen up around the power plants and the coal mines producing the black fossil fuel for the electricity generating sources.

The mines use many kinds of materials and equipment in the coal production process. One of the materials has been limestone, which is often supplied by local quarries.

Limestone is used in mines to coat the walls and for roadways.

Limestone is also being used as railroad ballast in some areas.

The current limestone quarries in eastern Utah are supplying much of the product used.

But there is one market the quarries have not tapped - local purchasers of large amounts of a product called quicklime. The purchasers are several of the power plants in the area.

"It is a very lucrative market that we have not been able to enter because of the types of limestone we have mined and the facility it takes to produce the product the power plants need," points out Steve Powell.

Powell's company has produced limestone products for the coal mines for years.

Estimates show that the Hunter and Huntington power plants spend more than $8 million a year on quicklime. And with another unit on its way to the Hunter plant, the expenditure will increase.

Quicklime is a widely used chemical compound. It is a white, caustic and alkaline crystalline solid.

As a commercial product, lime frequently contains magnesium oxide and silicon oxide as well as smaller amounts of aluminium and iron oxides.

Quicklime is made by heating limestone to about 500 degrees centigrade. The heating process removes the carbon dioxide in a reversible reaction. It was one of the first chemical reactions discovered by man and was known in prehistory.

For many years, limestone was used in mortar and plaster to increase the rate of hardening. The material has also been used in glass production.

Due to its ability to work with silicates, lime is used in metal production (steel, magnesium, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals) industries to remove impurities.

In addition, limestone is used in water and sewage treatment to reduce acidity, to soften, to remove phosphates and other impurities; paper making to dissolve lignin; as a coagulant; in bleaching; and in agriculture to improve acid soils.

Finally, power plants and other industries use the material in scrubber equipment or pollution control devices to reduce polluting gases.

In the past, the power plants in the Carbon-Emery area have bought quicklime from a source in western Utah.

But a limestone deposit at the top of Price Canyon and possible plans to construct a quicklime plant in Carbon County could change things dramatically.

"With quicklime, it is all in the cost of production and location for distribution," explains Powell. "The location of this deposit and the construction of a plant here could cut the cost of the product to the power plants, which is a good thing for us in this competitive market."

The limestone deposits found just across the Carbon line in Utah County are large. Powell indicates that his company has estimates on the amount of reserves at the site, but it will take drill testing to determine the exact scale of the resource.

The close proximity of the resource to the power stations is important because transportation is a major cost factor in the price that customers get when purchasing the product.

Every penny saved on transporting a ton of the material makes it easier to compete with outside sources.

But there are two additional factors that could make the product less expensive for the power companies.

First, the deposits in the canyon are fresh water limestone. The plants are presently getting quicklime products from an area where the base materials is of a salt water variety.

"To generate quicklime that the power plants can use, the raw material must be heated to a fairly high temperature," explains Powell. "Salt water limestone requires more heat to break out the product so there would be lower costs there."

Second, inexpensive eastern Utah coal could be burned to heat the limestone rather than natural gas or transported fuel. That would also create a big savings in production.

Basically, a plant in Carbon County could produce the product more cheaply and therefore give the power plants a better price.

If Powell can work out the logistics and arrange financing, a quicklime plant would probably be built on Ridge Road or near the Consumers Road area.

No one is sure at present how many jobs the plant would generate. But people would be needed to transport the raw limestone and the processed material as well as to work in the plant.

At present, Powell and his partners are looking at having a Washington company build and set up the plant. The company has constructed similar plants at numerous location in the United States and Canada.

The process could be a major operation since it takes two tons of limestone to create one ton of quicklime.

In one year, the two power plants used 92,000 tons of the processed material. The third unit expected to come on line at the PacifiCorp operation in the future could consume an additional 40,000 tons of the product.

Producing limestone from the deposits in the canyon would not be difficult.

"One of the best things about the deposit up the canyon is that it is literally on top of the strata," notes Powell. "There are places where the soil covering it is only a few inches deep."

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