Aventine event provides ethanol safety training to diverse group

By Kris Bevill | October 25, 2011

Aventine Renewable Energy Inc. hosted two day-long anhydrous ammonia and ethanol safety training seminars Oct. 21 and 22 at its 160 MMgy corn-based ethanol facility in Pekin, Ill., as part of its ongoing effort to educate first responders on the specific considerations related to fuel and gas emergencies. Approximately 100 people attended the event, including representatives from local volunteer fire departments, chemical companies, power plants, fertilizer production facilities, insurance companies, area health departments and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Brad Cantrell, safety/loss control manager at Aventine, said the company has been planning the event for months. “It was a lot of people and lot of hard work,” he said. “Over a year’s worth of planning and it all came together over the weekend.”

TransCAER, a hazardous materials outreach group whose members include the Renewable Fuels Association, the Association of American Railroads and the American Chemistry Council, provided a grant to assist with some of the costs associated with the event. The Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition  also assisted in planning the event. Tazewell & Peoria Railroad, the Pekin Fire Department and the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association co-hosted the event. During the event, volunteer trainers offered presentations to attendees on the properties of ethanol and anhydrous ammonia, response procedures for ethanol and anhydrous ammonia emergencies and the opportunity to get a close-up view of an ethanol tank car, a CO2 rail car, an anhydrous ammonia tractor-trailer and an anhydrous ammonia nurse tank. Officials from BNSF and CSX railroads were on-hand to offer training on rail cars and release valves. Fertilizer and chemical company representatives offered training on anhydrous ammonia transport equipment. Aventine officials also offered tours of its dry mill ethanol facility.

Aventine has a history of doing what it can to provide training for local first responders. “We’ve always tried to be a good neighbor,” Cantrell said. In previous years, the company has partnered with a local grain company to cover the cost of specialty foam training courses at Texas A&M University for Pekin firefighters. Financial difficulties in the past few years have prevented Aventine from continuing to sponsor those training courses, but plant officials regularly confer with local fire departments and host tours and events at the plant for first responders. Cantrell said the two-day training event was successful and, while it was a long time in the making, he recommends other facilities consider hosting similar events and even offered Aventine’s experience as reference material for other similar events. “If anybody needs help in getting the resources, we have it pretty much all together now and we’d be more than happy to share that with anybody, whether it’s an ethanol plant or an emergency response group or whatever,” he said.

It was a coincidence that Aventine’s safety training was held just a few weeks following the train derailment and ethanol tank car fire near Tiskilwa, Ill. Cantrell said he received an uptick in registrations for Aventine’s training event after the Tiskilwa incident, adding that the incident in Tiskilwa is just one example of what emergency responders need to be prepared for. “It was kind of ironic that there was this derailment weeks before the training,” he said. “One of our trainers was at that derailment and was able to talk about it. We didn’t go into a bunch of detail, but these are some of the things that can happen.”