Burning Question


Flare located at Tate & Lyle (Staley) plant along Loudon river .

What’s that big FLAME in the sky?


By: Pat Hunter

September 11, 2008


There are some people around here that are asking the same burning question, what’s that big flame in the sky located along the river at the Tate & Lyle plant. It's very prominent at night when you cross the bridge and look toward the Tate & Lyle Loudon plant.


At last month’s Aug. 27th Loudon County Air Quality Task Force meeting, Deeder Easter, Loudon City representative on the task force said that he had received a phone call about the flame located at the Tate & Lyle plant  at the Blair Bend Industrial Park off Hwy. 11.


Are you finished burning that off, Easter asked? Easter seemed to think that the “flame or flare” was not a permanent thing. According to Keith Brazzell, Tate & Lyle (A.E. Staley) plant manager, also a member of the task force, commented that the “flare” is a permanent condition but once the drying operations are fully equipped, it should be less noticeable.


A flare stack or gas flare is an elevated vertical stack. Flare stacks are also found on oil wells and rigs, refineries, landfills, and chemical plants such as the one located here in little Loudon City. The brightness and size of the flame depends on how much flammable material is released.


It’s a permanent condition and if the plant lost a dryer or did maintenance the flare would be in full operations, added Brazzell. Easter asked if the “flame” should be intermittent while Dr. Bud Guider wanted to know more about the “flare.” Dr. Guider is another member of the task force.


It depends on the amount of methane gas that is being produced from the bio-digester. Tate & Lyle has partnered with DuPont to manufacture a bio-PDO process. The new DuPont-Tate & Lyle plant is adjacent to the existing Tate & Lyle plant.


Hydrogen sulfide is scrubbed out of the methane, which creates a yellow sulfur that can be sold. You have a mini sulfur plant commented Commissioner Don Miller; Miller is one of two county commissioners task force representatives.


So your burning methane, asked Dr. Guider, I have never seen the “flame.”  It’s a medal stack that you see at night along the river. You can’t tell the digester to quit making gas said Brazzell, its making gas all the time.


Commissioner Don Miller asked do you have safety valves tied in as well; Brazzell said yes, there are relief valves. It is permitted to burn 365 days per year Brazzell added. Miller said we used to get questions about our refineries when people would see “fire” and that it’s “scary” and we had to explain its purpose. Miller is a retired engineer with Exxon Corp.   


We had people in our own plant that would say, “We have a fire” Brazzell told task force member.


Sometimes it looks bigger than at other times, I said to Keith Brazzell. Absolutely, it depends on how hard we are running and the amount of waste that there is, he said. Sometimes it looks real big, she said. At daytime it is much harder to see, he explained.    


EPA Methane Gas & Greenhouses gases



Tate & Lyle Must test Emission Controls Within 6 Months


At the British owned Tate & Lyle plant (A.E. Staley), all new dryers and environmental emission controls are on-line but the plant is not running at its full expanded conditions but it ran expanded enough to notify the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).


An update to the emission control equipment was reported to the task force. Keith Brazzell explained how within 6 months Tate & Lyle must call in someone to conduct emission testing, which is required by permit regulations.


If the plant does not come into full production within 180 days, T & L must still test that condition by some other way. We do some limitations on our top end production. The wastewater appears to be in much better condition, improvements were expected on that end. The plant manager said that they are doing some things in how they handle sludge and that they are land filling more of its sludge than originally expected. The waste treatment plant is going very well, Brazzell said.


Little Loudon County has many large Title V polluters located here, which add to serious air quality problems. The plants are located in close proximity to many residential subdivisions, parks, schools, and town center.