Dow Corning considers biomass CHP

By Lisa Gibson
Posted September 1, 2010, at 3:20 p.m. CST

Silicone-based product manufacturer Dow Corning is considering constructing a biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant on its Midland, Mich., site to power its existing facility as well as provide steam for its product manufacturing operations there.

The company is currently in the permitting process and hopes to make a definitive decision on the CHP plant by the end of this year, according to spokesman Jarrod Erpelding. "Alternative energy is very important to us," he said. "Currently, power and steam come from a coal-powered source." Steam is a major component of the company's operations, he added.

The biomass plant would be built on property owned by Dow Corning and immediately next to its existing manufacturing plant. Initially, it will run on chipped waste wood from forest harvesting, mills and dead trees or old growth, but could also combine municipal solid waste, agricultural waste and other low-value feedstocks, Erpelding said. The company is in negotiations for the woody biomass feedstock, but has not begun discussions with suppliers for other sources. The plant would use a gasification process and the amount of electricity and steam it would produce has not been determined. Dow Corning has not released a cost for the facility.

This would be the first biomass endeavor for the company and depending on the amount of steam and power it produces, excess energy might be available for sale to neighboring facilities as well as the local grid, Erpelding said. If the plant proves successful, Dow Corning might consider expanding its biomass portfolio. "We're always open for opportunities to more efficiently provide electricity and steam for all our plants across the country," he said.

Dow Corning's silicone-based products are used in a variety of industries including construction, solar, life sciences and personal products. Cirque Energy LLC would build, own and operate the Midland CHP plant for the company and is handling the environmental permitting.

"We believe over the long term this would represent some cost efficiencies as well as offer our company a more reliable supply of electricity and steam," Erpelding said.