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Published: Wednesday, 1/16/2013

Mayor requests $1.9M for city’s ‘co-gen’ plant

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council is being asked to plunk down an additional $1.9 million toward the 2013 operation of its methane “co-generation plant,” which is millions of dollars over budget and has been idle the last six months because of problems with gas delivery from the city's Hoffman Road Landfill.

The Bell administration sent the request to council for its review during its agenda review meeting Tuesday, ahead of next week's regular meeting.

It is the fourth year of a five-year contract with Solar Turbines Inc. to run and maintain the plant, located at the city's Bayview Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Mike Schreidah, the city's project manager at the plant, said the $1.9 million request includes a fixed annual fee of $1.6 million for co-generation operation and maintenance services and $300,000 for related services such as spare parts, lubrication, filtration, chemical treatment, stack testing, and system modifications and programming.

The landfill stopped sending methane to the plant in July, said Ed Moore, the city's director of public service. The gas is instead being burned in a flare at the landfill, he said.

“We realized that in order to get clean gas and high-quality gas over to the co-gen plant we needed to expand the collection system, and that includes the addition of wells to make the system better and to get more efficient gas over,” Mr. Moore said. That upgrade will cost $1.3 million.

He said part of the collection system’s pipes may have been crushed in 2010 when dredgings from the Ottawa River were dumped at the landfill. “I don't have any concrete proof, but we did notice a difference in quality and quantity after that,” Mr. Moore said.

About 290,400 tons of contaminated sediment were removed from the river.

The plant and the methane delivery system that originates at the landfill have been problem-plagued for years.

In late 2007, city officials said the project would cost $26 million for the infrastructure's installation and that it would be operating by the spring of 2009. That price included 1.7 miles of pipeline between the city landfill and its wastewater treatment plant in Point Place, plus a generator next to that sewage plant.

In the summer of 2010, the plant was forced to shut down because of hot weather and high humidity affecting the quality of the gas, which carried too much water vapor for the system to handle.

Mr. Schreidah on Tuesday said the upgrades at the landfill would fix condensation problems that affect the methane quality.

Also in 2010, city leaders said the cost for the project had exceeded $30.88 million. The project had been touted as a way to generate 7 to 10 megawatts of electricity a day for years, which would be enough to cover the 5 megawatts of average daily power needed at the wastewater treatment plant and cut down the power costs for the sewage plant, which cost the city about $3 million annually.

When it was running, the co-generation plant was producing half of the expected electricity, Mr. Schreidah said.

City Council President Joe McNamara said the gas quantity has not met expectations. “This was done years and years ago and I know there was a lot of federal money that helped it be possible,” he said. “The gas flow needs to be fixed or an alternative gas source needs to be found for this project to have a reasonable return on investment.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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