Koda Energy Reopens with New Design

By Anna Simet | February 14, 2014

Yesterday, I got an email from Stacy Cook, general manager of Koda Energy LLC in Shakopee, Minn. (and also a Biomass Magazine editorial board member), to let me know that Koda was back up and running, after being down for close to 10 months of repairs.

Well, not just repairs, but big improvements, largely related to safety.

Believed to be caused by ignited airborne dust, last April, the 23.4-megawatt biomass cogeneration plant endured a fuel silo explosion and resulting fire that damaged the silos (which contained wood chips and oat hulls), conveyor system and truck unloading area.

Cook said that while the experience was unfortunate, it gave Koda the opportunity to incorporate the newest technologies and best practices into the facility with a more robust fuel receiving system.

The $7 million improvements include a new fuel handling system with point and area dust collection, dustless loading spouts in the transition areas, infrared camera systems to detect hot spots, fire sprinkler and suppression systems, chemical and mechanical deflagration isolation systems, and deflagration venting in parts of the system where dust is under containment.

New monitoring capabilities have been added to the energy conversion side of the plant, as well as new automated features to increase the efficiency of the energy conversion processes.

The new design is also said to virtually eliminate trucks idling outside the facility.

The determination that an ember from a piece of equipment ignited a dust particle or wood chip—thus igniting material in two of Koda Energy’s silos—helped inform the planning process for the facility’s new design and operations.  Koda now says the type of fire that occurred in the previous facility could not occur now, based on the fact that the new facility does not include silos, containment or explosive concentrations of airborne dust, and it does feature infrared detectors that would help identify a potential ignition source before it could spread through the system.

So as of this week, Koda Energy is back to supplying renewable power to Xcel Energy, as well as  neighbor Rahr Corp., which uses the residual heat from electricity generation in its malting process. 

This is a classic example of the kinds of stories we are looking to tell in our June issue, which is themed plant safety, fire protection and emergency response. Hopefully, new plants under development—or existing plants looking to make upgrades or improvements—will look to the new Koda Energy as an example of the significance of configuring the safest, cleanest and most reliable design possible.