BioEnergy Discusses Local Environmental Impacts of Proposed Plant

CLEARFIELD – For the past year, the wheels have been turning to bring an ethanol plant to Clearfield County in the form of a $250 million plant including a pilot project from BioEnergy International LLC based in Norwell, Mass.

Wednesday night, residents packed the Third Ward Fire Hall to hear about the project.

Some were interested in environmental and quality of life issues.

The company is currently planning to locate the plant in the Clearfield County Technology Park, an area adjacent to Clearfield Borough’s East End that used to be home to a brick manufacturing facility.

Sam McConnell, vice president of business development for BioEnergy, said the plant will take in about 40 million bushels of corn per year, mainly from the Midwest, brought in by train. From this, 108 million gallons of ethanol will be made each year, with a byproduct of dried distillers grains — a cattle, poultry and pork feed.

McConnell said he plans for the plant to be a “showpiece” for the company because the pilot project to produce cellulosic ethanol will be housed there.

“We intend Clearfield to be the international destination for people to come and learn about cellulosic technology,” said Corinne Young, BioEnergy’s director of government and public affairs.


According to information presented to the public Wednesday, the plant will be a “minor source” of air emissions according to Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection guidelines. This, McConnell said, is aided by the use of natural gas to fuel the boiler and dryers.

The facility will also employ state-of-the-art environmental controls including a wet scrubber.

Plans also call for a totally enclosed process from the corn silos to the finished product. This combination achieves the minimum level of emissions for an ethanol facility of this size, according to information from Wednesday.


BioEnergy is projecting to withdraw 1,750 gallons of water per minute from the West Branch of the Susquehanna River as part of the production process. About 550 gallons per minute will be returned to the water, making a net consumption of 1,200 gallons per minute, under “worst case” conditions, according to Scott Golla of Malcolm Pirnie, an environmental consulting firm.

Those numbers, he said, equal about 3 or 4 percent of the worst seven-day flow in the past 10 years.

Water will be returned to the river at about 90 degrees.

BioEnergy will be required to obtain permits from the DEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission


McConnell said the totally enclosed process will significantly cut down on odors.

State-of-the-art equipment will eliminate 98.8 percent of the organic compounds that give rise to the odors, he said. Also, facilities created after 2000 do not have any noticeable odor at the property line.

Inside the property line, he said, it will smell like baking bread.


Noise levels at the plant’s battery limits are expected to be under 55 decibels. That level is comparable to a typical home air conditioner. A typical conversation is about 60 decibels at 3 feet away.

The process does not require large noise-generating machines, McConnell said, such as engines or turbines. Most of the equipment will be located inside insulated buildings, limiting the noise.

Trains are expected to unload two times per week, taking five to eight ours to unload each time. McConnell said the time of day when the trains will unload is unpredictable, but assured residents in neighboring East End that the company would be mindful.

“We will clearly be respectful of the neighborhood in trying to minimize any noise,” he said.

Safety & Security

The company plans to develop a comprehensive response plan for any type of incident. In this, BioEnergy will work with local fire and emergency response officials for coordination, as well as working with the Department of Homeland Security.

On-site safety includes following Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines, having required safety courses for personnel and a safety officer on the premises.

The property will be fully fenced, and all deliveries will be scheduled and recorded.

An integrated fire system will be placed in the plant, as required by law.


Lighting at the facility will be directed toward the interior of the plant for safety.

Strict sanitation standards will be in place including a totally enclosed process and material handling as well as daily site cleanups.

More information on BioEnergy International LLC can be found online.

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