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home : news : news June 30, 2016

State accepting public comments on North Branch sand plant

Editor’s note: this is our second story on the air quality permit under review for Tiller Corp. at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has made a preliminary determination that an air quality permit sought by Tiller Corp. is to be granted. Based on what’s in the permit information, the regulators analyzing the application feel assured the company can meet performance standards. A formal presentation on the permit is being provided by the state December 4, at a public open house in North Branch Library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tiller’s operation on the north edge of North Branch is designed to produce industrial sand (cleaned, refined)for a variety of manufacturing and energy uses, the permit states. At a meeting last week Tiller said the sand is used in a variety of products. The Grantsburg, Wisconsin mining operation supplying product to North Branch, is listed on a website for Interstate Energy Partners, and IEP representatives attended a meeting last week in Harris. IEP markets sand for use in hydraulic fracturing to release petroleum and natural gas deposits underground.

The “proppant sand” resulting from processing in a plant like the one in North Branch is excellent for fracking wells. (See iepsands.com) In this “Phase One” operating cycle Tiller is utilizing Grantsburg, Wisconsin and Sunrise Township pit product. Tiller also owns pits in Franconia, and the City of Scandia. At the North Branch site, as explained in the permit, a conveyor system brings sand from where it’s kept in piles on-site to a dryer to remove excess moisture. A sifter separates the sand into sizes. Tiller executive Mike Caron stated in a meeting earlier the “gyratory” device doesn’t make much noise, it “rotates” more so than “shakes” the sand particles. The sorted sand is transferred on a conveyor again to storage silos and will be shipped by truck and rail to its destination. The potential for emissions and the impact on air quality are being considered both within the plant and immediate operations, including transporting. The permit addresses “particulates” (this is silica sand) being controlled with watering. The Tiller site operators keep track of how often and how much water is used and reports to the state. There will be periodic site visits and Tiller is also responsible for doing visual assessment of any visible particulates based on “opacity” standards or how clear the air is within the site. Caron, who is the lead on this permit process, said at a meeting last week the state requires permits only when daily use exceeds 10,000 gallons and the plant doesn’t expect to hit that.

The company has a well on the site but can also “buy water” from a nearby municipality, using a tanker if need be. The sand dryer, stack and baghouse also have standards for emissions and the oil burner (back-up fuel) also is included in the permit. (Maximum estimated for the permit is 514 gallons per hour based on using this fuel 760 annual hours.) Trucks and rail cars moving product into and out of the plant will be physically covered, according to the permit. +++++++ Your comments on the air quality permit are being accepted by Steven Gorg, MN PCA Air Quality Permits Section Industrial Division, MN Pollution Control Agency, 520 Lafeyette Roda North, St. Paul, MN 55155 or you can fax comments to 651-296-8717 or e mail steven.gorg@state.mn.us Be as specific as possible if you wish the PCA to take certain actions, give reasons supporting your comments and if you request a contested hearing state exactly which issues and concerns you want addressed and how you envision the relief. Rules are available at www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us

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