Restart of Koda Energy power plant uncertain

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2013 - 9:03 PM

A still-smoldering fire at the Koda Energy biomass burner was under investigation Friday and should be out by Saturday.

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Mdewakanton and Shakopee fire departments watered down two silos after an explosion last month at an energy plant that is a joint venture between Koda Energy and Rahr Malting in Shakopee.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Koda Energy said Friday that it has no idea when its biomass burner in Shakopee will resume steam and electricity production after an explosion eight days ago left a long-smoldering fire in two of its fuel-storage silos.

The facility, known as a combined heat-and-power plant, burns wood chips, oat hulls and other natural materials known as biomass to generate electricity for Xcel Energy Inc. and supply process steam to nearby Rahr Malting Co., which co-owns the plant.

Stacy Cook, vice president and general manager of Koda Energy, said Friday that the last of the smoldering biomass should be extinguished and removed on Saturday.

“We have quenched it and reduced the temperature,” Cook said, although some steam or smoke still wafted from the silos on Friday.

Material from unaffected storage silos already has been taken away, he said.

The fire that erupted April 25 damaged two biomass fuel silos, their conveyor system and a truck unloading facility. Cook said the next step will be to assess the damage and arrange repairs.

As for restarting the plant, he said, “we don’t have a timetable as yet.”

Rahr Malting, a family-owned producer and distributor of malt and brewing supplies since 1847, is operating with natural gas, which was its source of process heat before the completion of the Koda Energy facility in 2009, Cook said. The facility is co-owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, whose tribal lands and Mystic Lake Casino are nearby.

A spokesman for Xcel said the halt in power generation at the Koda Energy plant did not cause problems for customers. The plant’s generator is relatively small, equivalent to about 10 to 12 wind turbines. Like them, the biomass plant helps Minneapolis-based Xcel meet its state renewable energy mandate.

The state fire marshal and Koda Energy’s insurer are investigating the fire, officials said. The damage is expected to be covered by insurance, Cook said. The Shakopee Fire Department, which initially fought the fire, has monitored the follow-up work by Koda Energy and a contractor.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090 • @ShafferStrib

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