“There’s no finer place in the world to live and grow up,” said Kanab native Richard Boardman, Ph.D, of the southern Utah area. He spoke briefly of the good life growing up here, and then gave an informative presentation on coal gasification.

The March 16 Kanab Chamber of Commerce event provided an informative talk by chemical engineer Boardman. He works for the Idaho Natural Laboratory, a facility that investigates natural resource use for energy in an effort to keep nations safe and competitive. Boardman spoke about the technical, economic and social perspectives of gasification and synthetic fuels. His talk was followed by an animated public discourse on the proposed coal gasification plant.

“Energy is our grand challenge,” said Boardman, after presenting data on our nation’s increasing energy needs. He discussed the area’s historic background on utilizing (or attempting) to use coal in this area, including the Alton coal slurry proposal and attempts to develop the Andalex mine on the Kaiparowits plateau. He also cited our nation’s use and demand.

“We need access to stable, affordable energy. That is the key to peace and prosperity. What do you do when you get beyond conventional means to support demand,” he questioned. He cited national security issues, including resource security, and economic and environmental stability. Boardman explained that gasification is practiced extensively around the world, and there are numerous experimental plants in the U.S.

The focus is to create a thermo chemical conversion of biomass into a synthetic gas (syngas), that can be run through a turbine for the production of electricity. Syngas is then used to replace natural gas or is converted into biofuel. A key is creating enough heat to convert the (coal/biomass) to convert it to syngas. The pilot plant proposed for Kanab is trying to prove out hydro thermal gasification to make a better quality of syngas.

“You’ve got to use fossil fuels objectively,” said Boardman. “Gasification is an enabling technology.”

Following his presentation, Boardman took questions from the public. While he was not a representative of the proposed gasification plant, he was put on the hot seat over the proposed project. (Editor’s note-people didn’t state their names, so I put questions that were asked and Boardman’s paraphrased response.)

Questions:

What can we expect here from the experimental gasification project?

Boardman: Some onerous fumes, some toxic emissions and an enclosed flare of steam from the smoke stack. He cited the difference between a small source plant and a large one. This will be a small source

 Who asked you here?

Boardman responded that he was on his anniversary and was visiting his mother in Kanab, and had been questioned whether he’d be willing to talk on the subject. He had been contacted roughly two months ago by Mr. Guthrie concerning the Viresco project to discuss science related to the industry, since he worked in the field.

He also spoke with Kanab City Mayor Nina Laycook, and Legislator Mike Noel concerning the visit. Noel stated that Boardman’s employer had a written contract with the State of Utah, and Noel asked if Boardman could come and talk on the subject. Boardman said that he was more than willing to if he could fit a talk in around his family visit.

 Is there a benefit to Kanab?

Boardman: Profits of doing business is shared with the community. Boardman added that the question of having the gasification plant here was basically a quality of life issue.

 Community cost/benefit?

Boardman: Possible construction jobs and sporadic economic activity. Perhaps it’ll bring more industries here.

Water needs and visual pollution were brought up. Again, on the Kanab issue, people didn’t seem to understand that Boardman wasn’t Viresco’s representative, so he didn’t have concrete data concerning this particular gasification proposal. Water needs seemed to be an unknown. Three to four story high steel framework around the gasifiers was supposed to be expected.

Why put a plant in a tourism town?

Boardman: That’s a collective value judgement of the community.

A negative statement was made concerning a community activist.

Boardman responded that he thought it was a good thing if someone encourages people to get involved in issues.