On Location: Koda Energy

Designing for Maximum Safety

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On Location: Koda Energy

Executive Editor Tim Portz paid a visit toeditorial board member Stacy Cook from Koda Energy to get a cover photo. He got a cover photo and a tour of Koda's new fuel receiving infrastructure, designed for maximum safety.
By Tim Portz | December 12, 2014


If you’ve heard me talk about Biomass Magazine for more than 10 minutes before, chances are you’ve heard me mention the role that our editorial board plays in the magazine’s planning and production. They truly are invaluable. This week, our team was in the middle of pulling the January
2015 together. I realized last week that so far we didn’t have a great cover option. No problem. Editorial board to the rescue.


I called Stacy Cook, VP and General Manager at Shakopee, Minnesota’s Koda Energy. Not only has Stacy has been a consistent participant on our monthly story pitch meetings for well over two years, his plant happens to be less than a 20 minute drive from my house.  I called Stacy late last week and asked if I could come down and shoot some images that might work for a cover. I was welcomed with open arms.


I’ve been to Koda Energy a number of times. 3-4 at least. As I pulled in on Tuesday, however, I got turned around and wasn’t quite sure I recognized the place. I wound my way behind a large building and found myself approaching a parking lot that looked more familiar. I grabbed my gear and headed into the office. Stacy met me near the front desk.


“This place looks different,” I remarked.

Stacy smiled and noted that since I was last there, the silo yard they used to use to receive and store biomass was completely gone. The building that had thrown me was the new fuel receiving and handling complex.

For the next 30 minutes, I got a whirlwind tour of the plant’s new addition. Still, I was there for a cover shot and so far, I wasn’t sure I’d gotten what I needed. At some point, I walked by two of Koda’s fuel crew and knew immediately that I’d found my cover model. Joel Sadden is a fuel handler hired at Koda nine months ago. Joel is a big guy. A radio was hanging from his sweatshirt and on his full brimmed hard hat he had affixed a head lamp. Earlier I had walked by a very large pipe wrench
and asked Joel if he would simply stand in place, holding the wrench.

Steam billowed behind him and just through the steam I could make out the concrete silo’s at the Rahr Malting Co. A significant amount of Koda’s biomass comes to them from the residues produced by Rahr. I snapped the shutter and felt like I finally had my cover.


This morning I realized how much Stacy had been telling me as I shot that morning. I also realized, with a camera in my numb hands, I’d written very little of it down. What Stacy and his team have done is impressive, so I called him to remind myself of what I had seen.


In April of 2013, there was an explosion that severely damaged the silo yard that used to receive and hold biomass at the plant. Stacy’s team went to work on designing a completely reimagined fuel handling system. The goal was to build the safest system possible. Silos have been replaced by a covered, two bay concrete building.  Each bay terminates at grated floor and biomass is pushed over the grate falling onto an underfloor reclaimer. Stacy pointed out the extensive deployment of GreCon spark detection and arrest system. Koda Energy hired general contractor Greystone Construction to handle the buildings, structures and foundations. Koda handled the equipment selection and procurement and Barr Engineering was engaged to make sure it all fit together nicely. Stacy’s very proud of what they’ve built. That is plain to see.


I’m happy to report that Stacy has graciously offered his facility and his experiences in rebuilding the fuel receiving and handling facility as a tour stop at this year’s International Biomass Conference
& Expo which I will be mentioning on next Tuesday’s preview webinar.

If you are considering participating in that event in any way (speaker, exhibitor, attendee) I’d urge you give our preview 25 minutes. We’re excited about this year’s event.


Thanks again to Stacy for his hospitality. Thanks also to Joel for being a good sport and great cover subject.


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