The federal government has given the go-ahead to a deal that will see the University of Iowa burn oat hulls from Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids to generate energy. Steve Jenkins, manager of facilities engineering at Quaker, says the University will no longer burn coal, but will burn oat hulls from his plant. Jenkins says the University of Iowa benefits because the oat hulls are cheaper than coal, and they comply with new state and federal emission guidelines for its power plant. Jenkins says his company benefits by finding a new buyer for oat hulls, a byproduct of its food production which it had been converting into a chemical.Jenkins says the chemical was sold to the petroleum industry to help convert crude oil, but it’s no longer a profitable business for Quaker to be in because the oil industry’s begun using other alternatives and third world countries have started making the chemical, too. Jenkins says the project began in January as a pilot, but today’s E-P-A action allows the deal to continue permanently. Jenkins says fuel is measured by its b-t-u content, and about a ton of coal produces about 26 million b-t-u’s. Oat hulls produce about 14 million b-t-u’s. Jenkins says oat hulls burn hotter and cleaner than coal. The University of Iowa should throw out half as many “particulates” into the air by burning the oat hulls.
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