LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Waste products from a coal-fired Louisville power plant will be turned into fertilizer by a new facility that was unveiled Monday.
The announcement by LG&E and Charah Inc. drew Kentucky's Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to the Mill Creek Generating Station in southwest Jefferson County.
The $13 million facility at LG&E's plant will use a synthetic form of the mineral gypsum, left over from the process that removes sulfur dioxide from coal-burning emissions. The money for the facility came from a public-private partnership, according to LG&E. Charah says it is the first facility of its kind in the country.
McConnell, Paul and other state leaders hailed the plant as a victory for the state's coal and agriculture industries.
"I think all of us would agree that Kentucky is a coal state and Kentucky is an agriculture state," said Democratic Rep. Rocky Adkins, majority floor leader in the Kentucky House. "And when these two industries join together ... we can create a strong economy that will produce the types of jobs that our people need and deserve."
McConnell says the plant, which produces fertilizer pellets from gypsum, is "the marriage between energy production and agriculture."
Mill Creek, LG&E's largest power plant, produces about 600,000 tons of gypsum a year.
Danny Gray, executive vice president at Charah, said the new facility will produce about 300,000 tons of the fertilizer a year when it is running at full capacity. About 20 workers will staff it, he said.
The coal-fired plant uses pollution controls called scrubbers that spray a slurry of limestone across the exhaust gases, causing it to bond with the sulfur dioxide and keeping it from entering the atmosphere. The leftover gypsum byproduct is also used to make wall board and as a filler for concrete.
Gray said the gypsum that comes from power plants can be sticky and is not easily spread using farming equipment. Charah adds a binder to the dried gypsum and forms it into pellets. The product is called SUL4R-PLUS, and Charah said it dissolves faster that other sulfur-based fertilizers.
"It spreads just like fertilizer," Gray said.
Vic Staffieri, LG&E chief executive officer, said reusing the gypsum and shipping it away reduces the utility's storage needs and lowers customer costs.
The Mill Creek plant is also currently undergoing a $940 million upgrade to its pollution controls. The plant burns about 4 million tons of coal a year that comes mostly from western Kentucky, where coal has a higher sulfur content than coal mined in eastern Kentucky and other parts of the Appalachia.