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North Dakota university researchers to turn used ties into 'green' energy


The University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) recently began a demonstration of a clean energy system designed to convert used railroad ties into heat and power.

The EERC is working with Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp. (ACC) of Winnipeg, Manitoba, to convert biomass to energy in environmentally friendly ways. The company plans to install two 1-megawatt commercial clean power systems at a demonstration site northeast of Vancouver in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The EERC and ACC have reached a major milestone in generating power from discarded rail ties, according to the research center. Ties are chipped before being fed into a power system, which operates at a much lower pressure and flow rate compared with other similar systems.

About 25 million used ties are disposed of annually in North America, and those materials could be converted into clean green energy, according to the EERC and ACC.

“Railroad ties treated with creosote are some of the most difficult biomass feedstocks to process safely because they contain significant amounts of coal tar,” said Nikhil Patel, EERC’s project manager and research scientist, in a prepared statement. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed severe restrictions on the disposal of the railroad ties because the tar can be harmful to humans.”

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More News from 5/21/2009