Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Biological air emissions control project to be featured in Department of Energy publication

KINGSVILLE - May 22, 2006

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

Technician working on a bio air remission unit

A project from the South Texas Environmental Institute (STEI) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville will be featured prominently in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) publication Energy Technology Solutions: Public-Private Partnerships Transforming Industry.

The project to be featured is titled “Biological Air Emissions Control for an Energy Efficient Forest Products Industry of the Future.” The DOE serves as the sponsor of the project, which is a joint effort between A&M-Kingsville, Bio • Reaction Industries LLC (BRI), and the Stimson Lumber Company.

The production of renewable wood building materials can result in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), which must be tightly controlled. Conventional methods for controlling those emissions require significant amounts of energy in the form of combustible natural gas and generate secondary pollutants. The A&M-Kingsville project employs biological treatment of air emissions, using microorganisms to degrade air toxics. The result is significant energy and cost savings, without creating secondary pollutants or having to consume excessive natural gas resources.

To help prove this concept, a pilot system was installed at the Stimson Lumber Company in Forest Grove, Oregon in August 2005 to treat emissions from a hardboard press vent at an air flow rate as high as 3,000 cubic feet per minute. Personnel from Texas A&M-Kingsville and BRI have been collecting data on how effectively the system has been removing emissions, adjusting the system as needed to optimize its performance.

“The project has been going very well,” said primary investigator (PI) Dr. Kim Jones, associate professor and chair of the environmental engineering department, and director of STEI. “ The biological approach demonstrated that for Stimson Lumber Company, it could save them a significant amount of money and energy costs as an alternative for controlling emissions instead of implementing a thermal oxidizer, which uses significant amounts of natural gas.  An estimated savings of 44 billion BTU/year in natural gas savings is possible for this application. That is enough energy savings to heat or cool almost 500 average size homes annually.”

Jones noted that the Stimson-based project has been so successful that the DOE has committed to renew the contract. As part of the renewal, the testing will be expanded to include opacity (haze) removal by biological treatment and to evaluate removal efficiency for higher volatile compound concentrations.  The renewal should take the project into 2008, when it will be further assessed for more field scale applications.

Although the testing has been taking place in Oregon, Jones and Co-PI Dr. James Boswell of BRI hope to utilize elements of the technology locally.

“I would like to take the biologically sustainable approach for cleaning the low VOC emissions from refineries such as those in Corpus Christi and the Houston area, to help them save energy and reduce flaring,” said Jones. “Another significant application is for the paint and coatings industry, to save more energy and reduce emissions.”


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