Nova Scotia grants controversial year-long pilot for Lafarge to burn tires as fuel

Cement company Lafarge Canada had been lobbying for a tire burning pilot project in Nova Scotia for more than a decade, but was often met with protests from several groups. An environmental assessment for the pilot project was finally granted in July 2017, and an industrial approval was given this month. Photo Credit: Divert NS

Nova Scotia’s Environment Department has greenlighted a controversial one-year pilot project at a Lafarge Canada Inc. cement plant in Brookfield, N.S., to burn tires instead of coal as fuel for its kilns.

The company, which filed the application for industrial approval in late 2017, will be required to perform air quality monitoring at regular intervals while the kiln is operating, in addition to undertaking groundwater and surface water monitoring.

“Normally, industrial approvals are issued for a 10-year period,” Nova Scotia’s Environment Department wrote in a statement. “The shorter period allows the province to ensure that terms and conditions are being met, and can be modified if needed to ensure the environment and human health are protected.”

Lafarge says it installed state-of-the-art Continuous Emission Monitoring systems at its Brookfield Cement plant for $830,000. Every 10 seconds, analyzers will measure plant emissions such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrocarbons. This new equipment builds upon existing process measurement tools already capturing opacity, temperatures, and feed rates.

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“We are looking forward to using these new analyzers to aid us in optimizing our plant’s performance and to enable the research team to better do their work,” said Rob Cumming, Environment Director for Lafarge, in a statement. “The one-year pilot project for scrap tire fuel demonstration will allow us to garner the scientific evidence we need to assure ourselves, Nova Scotia Environment, and the community that the use of scrap tires in place of coal is not only safe but will provide many benefits, just as their use does in Europe and the United States.”

Lafarge had been lobbying for the tire burning pilot project in Nova Scotia for more than a decade, but was met with protests from several groups. An environmental assessment for the pilot project was finally granted in July 2017.

Now, some 30% of the approximately one million tires recovered each year in Nova Scotia will go to Lafarge to generate fuel, which the company says is better than burning coal.

When purchasing tires in Nova Scotia, there is a $4.50 environmental handling fee added to the cost of each tire ($13.50 for a tire between 17” and 24.5”). The fee goes toward the cost of diverting the tire from landfill, although many critics of the plan have suggested that the fees are essentially subsidizing the energy costs of a major corporation. From the fees, Lafarge is paid $105 per metric tonne for processing the tires.

In a statement against the project, the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre claims: “The proposal is to burn 450,000 tires a year or 6,000 tonnes; this would represent 15% of fuel used in the cement kiln. Their position is that burning tires instead of coal can reduce greenhouse gas and NOx emissions. There is also a clear economic incentive for Lafarge; if approved Lafarge would reduce fuel costs and be paid with environmental handling fees to burn tires. We want to see fewer greenhouse gas emissions; we do not think burning tires is the solution.”

In 2008, Lafarge backed down from trying to implement a similar tire burning project at its plant in Bath, Ontario, facing public outcry. Vancouver-headquartered EcoJustice took a firm interest in the case, noting the company’s tire burning data from Quebec.

“Data from Lafarge’s cement facility in Saint-Constant, Quebec, where the company already burned tires, revealed that airborne releases of heavy metals and other toxic emissions increased up to 3,400% between 2000-04,” stated Dr. Elaine MacDonald, program director – Healthy Communities at Ecojustice in her assessment. “This contradicts the company’s denial that burning tires and other wastes has a negative impact on local air quality and the environment,” she added.

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