Two explosions at the Koda Energy plant in Shakopee, Minn. closed roads and forced people to stay inside for a couple of hours Thursday afternoon.
Witnesses heard two loud bangs and saw flames as high as 100 feet in the air. Those witnesses said the Boston bombings and the West, Texas explosion made Thursday's blast extra nerve-wracking.
The city of Shakopee said there was no immediate danger, but anyone within a one mile radius of the fire was urged to stay indoors in the hour following the fire. The fire department evacuated some homes as a precaution.
Koda Energy says the silos were full of wood chips and oat hulls that are burned in boiler to produce energy. The plant is on the same property as Rahr Malting Company, which produces malt for beer brewing.
Koda said it also experienced a small dust explosion at its plant nine months ago.
Koda Energy released the following statement about the fire on Thursday night:
Today at 12:37 p.m., Koda Energy experienced an explosion in two silos containing woodchips and oat hulls at the biomass facility. Seven employees were on site. All employees are safe and accounted for.
Koda Energy followed its emergency plans, called 9-1-1, and immediately shut down the facility's operations.
Koda Energy provides environmentally friendly, biomass energy for Rahr Malting and Xcel Energy. Rahr Malting uses the residual heat from the generation of electricity in its malting process. Koda Energy is one of the only heat and power plants in the United States which burns exclusively natural materials.
Koda Energy generates energy by burning a blend of agricultural and plant seed byproducts, including oat hulls, sunflower hulls, wood chips, sawdust, ground-up wood pallets, and other agricultural seed products. No hazardous materials are kept on site, and no dangerous chemicals were released into the air.
Koda Energy – a partnership between Rahr Corporation and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community – is regulated by the MPCA, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, and OSHA. Koda Energy became fully operational in May 2009. Rahr dates back to 1847.
The fire caused damage to two biomass fuel silos and their conveyor system, as well as the truck unloading facility. Koda Energy said it is too early to assess the full extent of the damage.
A smoldering fire remains in the two silos, which is expected to burn itself out. Fire officials from Shakopee and surrounding communities will be on hand until the situation is resolved.
Koda Energy does not yet know the cause of the fire or when it will resume operations.
- Koda Energy requires 170,000 tons of biomass annually, all of which comes from within a 60-mile radius.
- The facility recovers more than 70% of energy in the products burned.
- It uses a suspension boiler for maximum efficiency, resulting in a higher heat conversion rate than coal.
>Koda Energy: 87% heat conversion rate
>Coal: 63% heat conversion rate
- The facility is considered CO2 neutral and is significantly cleaner than a coal plant.
- Its air emissions are closely monitored on an ongoing basis.
- The process of turning biomass into energy produces about 40,000 pounds of dry ash per day. The dry ash can be added to soil to improve its water retention, permeability, drainage, and aeration properties. The ash can also potentially be used in concrete for road projects.