ARDMORE, Okla.-Scrap tire shredder Safe Tire Disposal is ready to link up with major end-users-particularly power generators-after stockpiling tire chips for a few years.
Founded in 1985, Safe Tire has worked under the auspices of the scrap tire programs of Oklahoma and Texas-collecting tires from dealers at no charge, clearing tires from designated illegal tire dumps, and shredding the tires at its five plants.
Once the tires are shredded, the states reimburse the firm with money collected from fees on new-tire sales.
While some people object to indiscriminate shredding of tires, Safe Tire said it is eliminating the environmental hazard of whole tires.
With Texas generating about 20 million scrap tires a year, ``there is no one use to consume that kind of volume overnight,'' said Scott Holden, who co-founded Safe Tire with his father Harold.
Potential investors and end-users, he added, want visible proof that a processor has a large enough inventory to supply their needs.
Last year Safe Tire generated 120,103 tons of tire shreds and chips.
All the chips produced at its Oklahoma facility are gone, said Fred Parker, vice president of marketing, and by next year the company hopes its four Texas facilities will have settled into a balanced inflow/outflow of tires and processed material.
None of the shreds have been landfilled, Holden said.
Rather, the company sells its chips to end-users who process the material into construction mats, road bed filler, landfill leachate collection systems, as well as fuel chips to fire cement kilns.
Scrap tire markets are growing, Holden said, but ``it is difficult to find an end use to take the volume the state generates.''
So Safe Tire is eyeing construction of power plants that would consume the tires.
``Energy is the best thing to use the material for,'' he said.
The company already is selling some tire-derived fuel now.
It was a market that took the company a while to open up, since end-users, such as the utilities and cement manufacturers, had to obtain permits to burn alternate fuel.
In 1992, Safe Tire spawned another firm, Recycled Energy Inc., to pursue and develop tire-fueled energy generation projects, as well as others that would consume other alternate fuels.
With many manufacturers considering changing their boiler systems to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, ``This is the ideal time to talk to these companies,'' Holden said.
But usually these potential end-users want assurances that the processor can provide an up-front and continuous supply of TDF, Holden said.
So Safe Tire Disposal has been building its tire chip stockpile to a point where it now can supply a 50- to 60-megawatt power plant fueled entirely with tire chips for a year, according to Holden.
The financial groups and end-users ``can now come and see the inventory sit there,'' he said. ``It gives them a more comfortable feeling that we can supply their volume.''