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Harnessing the Energy From Smokestacks Can Be Expensive. OH Really?

A listener wants to know if the gas emissions from smokestacks -- like the ones in Cleveland's Industrial Valley -- can be harnessed as an energy source.
A listener wants to know if the gas emissions from smokestacks -- like the ones in Cleveland's Industrial Valley -- can be harnessed as an energy source.

For decades, factories in Cleveland's Industrial Valley have sent smoke and even fire out of their smokestacks – a process known as “flaring.”

Margaret Liske from Hudson has always wondered about the smokestacks along I-77 near Cleveland.

“They belch out huge, high billows of smoke and -- at night -- fire. Why is this potential heat not somehow recycled [or] reused?”

For the answer, we asked Krishna Rao, a chemical engineer who recently retired as president of Valley View-based plastics firm, Nanofilm.

“There’s this constant push-and-pull about what’s good for the environment versus what’s good for the company in trying to reduce their costs. It’s more expensive to burn it and use it as a source of energy because they have access to lower cost fuel. Or if they decide to ship it somewhere else, the cost of transportation – whether through tankers or through pipelines – will require a lot more investment. That’s been the [classic] argument.”

Rao says other countries, including Russia and Nigeria, have required a decrease in these types of emissions. He hopes the U.S. will, too.

You can ask your question for “OH Really” here.

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