TORRANCE — An Irvine-based energy company is planning to build an innovative energy-producing co-generator in Torrance that burns a petroleum byproduct and could, the company says, save millions of gallons of oil annually.
GWF Power Systems Co., a sister company of the Garrett Corp., has received a construction go-ahead from the South Coast Air Quality Management District and city Planning Commission. The only remaining hurdle is an appeal of the commission's decision by neighboring businesses who fear that the plant could negatively affect the environment and their property values.
The City Council will hear the appeal--originally scheduled for Tuesday--on Jan. 29.
Bill Bowler, vice president of operations for GWF, said his company's co-generator is unique because it provides low-cost energy that uses coke, a waste product of petroleum refineries, and is environmentally safe. GWF hopes to use the facility in Torrance as a demonstration model for similar plants across the country.
Bowler said that in a year the Torrance plant could save the equivalent of 160,000 barrels of oil, or more than 6 million gallons.
Petroleum coke is usually shipped to Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand where it is used in the aluminum industry or for supplemental fuel. Some petroleum coke is used domestically for the production of aluminium and cement, primarily in the eastern United States.
Bowler said there is limited domestic use of petroleum coke as a fuel to produce energy because of the dirty emissions it produces. But he said GWF's solid fuel co-generator utilizes a closed turbine developed by the Garrett Corp. that recirculates a sealed volume of pressurized air from its exhaust back into its intakes. Contemporary gas turbines are open and take air from the atmosphere and emit it back into the atmosphere as exhaust.
The co-generator will burn the petroleum coke in a fluidized combustor at a low temperature to decrease the amount of nitrogen oxide produced. In addition, limestone is mixed with the fuel to reduce sulfuric emissions. The waste product is captured in a filter as a solid matter.
Bowler said that because the working fluid of the co-generator is totally contained and reused, the Garrett CBC (closed Brayton cycle) turbine does not emit pollutants. In addition, he said, because the fluid is pressurized, the turbine is quite small.
Trucks with covered cargo bays would come from Long Beach north on the San Diego Freeway to Western Avenue, then onto 190th Street west to the facility on Van Ness Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard. Four fuel trucks would each haul more than 25 tons of petroleum coke a day.
Bowler said noise levels will be within acceptable industrial standards and the process will produce no objectionable odors. The city has imposed a maximum noise level of 55 decibels.
According to records filed with the Planning Department, the complex would be similar in appearance and operation to a small oil refinery with a tower about 60 feet high. The complex would be built on a portion of more than 100 acres owned by Garrett where other Garrett production facilities are located. The system would be operated 24 hours a day and produce 9,000 kilowatts of electricity and 2,000 pounds per hour of steam.
Barry Black, construction manager of Surf Management, which owns and operates industrial parks near the Garrett site, said he is pushing for a complete environmental impact report to make sure the facility would not be an environmental hazard. In August, the City Council ruled that an environmental report was not required.
"I wouldn't say we are opposed to the project, but we are concerned about it," Black said. "We just want to make sure it lives up to everything that they say it does."
GWF's Bowler said neighbors have no need to be concerned.
"They are a little bit worried about something they don't fully understand," he said. "The AQMD is tough. Getting this permit is a real example of how good this system really is."
Bowler said some of the electricity will be sold to Southern California Edison, but in the long term will be used to supply the needs of the adjacent Garrett Corp. facilities.