Plant would sell distillery byproducts

February 08, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The world's 6 billion people drink billions of sodas every year, but few people probably give much thought to where manufacturers get the bubbles in carbonated beverages.

"They buy the bubbles," said Scott Welsh, project manager for Penn-Mar Ethanol, a York, Pa., corporation that has proposed building a plant in the Cumberland Valley Business Park to distill ethanol from corn.

One of the byproducts of ethanol production is carbon dioxide, the gas that puts the fizz in soft drinks, he said. When the plant reaches full production, he estimated it will produce 125,000 tons of the gas a year.


Instead of releasing the gas into the air, Welsh said it will be captured, condensed and resold, primarily to soda bottlers and other food processors. Producers in the mid-Atlantic now have to ship in some of the carbon dioxide they use from other parts of the country, he said.

"They are sitting on a Superfund site," Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority Executive Director John Van Horn said of the property Penn-Mar has signed to purchase. Formerly part of Letterkenny Army Depot, the land has groundwater pollution from years of industrial processes conducted at the depot, he said.

That U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designation, however, will not affect operations of the plant on the industrial-zoned property, he said. The plant also will have to meet standards set by Greene Township for such things as lighting and the height of buildings, he said.

Steam from the plant likely would be visible only on cold days, Van Horn said, and the plant would be in a remote area.

"You almost have to search for the site," he said.

The plant would be "fully regulated" by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources and have to meet all air quality standards. Penn-Mar has assured the authority that the plant will have "state-of-the-art thermal oxidizing equipment to handle any kind of contaminant produced," he said.

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