To increase facility production and improve reliability, functionality and flexibility, Ascend Performance Materials (Ascend) set out to replace its aging steam generation assets in its Decatur, Alabama manufacturing facility. The Decatur facility was built in the 1950s, and its supporting utility systems have been modified extensively over the past 70 years. Ascend contracted ENERCON to conduct a feasibility study and develop a robust and viable new utility system that would increase capacity and output while decreasing the environmental impact and lowering utility costs.

“The new units are set to showcase state-of-the-art technology that maximizes power generation and heat recovery and reduces Ascend’s carbon footprint, while facilitating our adiponitrile production increases,” said Dale Borths, Ascend’s Vice President of Capital Engineering.

ENERCON’s innovative team of engineers performed feasibility studies, electrical analyses, cost estimates, and economic viability studies for multiple system configurations. They designed a unique cogeneration plant that will meet Ascend’s needs by providing high-pressure steam and electricity for near-term growth with the capability of future expansion to meet long-term growth expectations.

The new cogeneration system is designed to maximize energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

“Based on Ascend’s thermal and electrical needs, we determined that a cogeneration system is the best long-term economic solution for our client.  The onsite generation will increase the reliability of Ascend’s electric supply, while utilizing the waste energy from the turbine exhaust to deliver approximately 78% system efficiency,” said ENERCON’s Engineering Manager, Kip Walker, P.E.

New system design allows Ascend to shutdown existing coal fired boilers and eliminate the associated environmental concerns of burning coal.

Natural gas combustion turbines were selected to generate a significant portion of the electricity that is currently purchased from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and provide another level of redundancy.

Waste heat from the gas turbines will be converted to high-pressure steam in the heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) for use in the Ascend chemical processes.

Use of three cogeneration units will allow flexibility in operation, maintenance, and capacity.

“ENERCON’s adaptability, expertise and innovative engineering design and support allowed us to review the multiple design options quickly and choose the best system design to meet our business goals for this project,” said Borths.

ENERCON continued to partner with Ascend developing a front-end engineering design (FEED) including detailed equipment specifications and the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) scope of work for the new cogeneration plant. The design incorporated the critical interface points to the Decatur facility to minimize facility disruptions. Additionally, ENERCON proposed a staged approach to the project to help Ascend allocate resources to meet funding milestones.

“Based on the consistent value ENERCON delivered to our client, Ascend expanded our contract to support the EPC contract as Owner’s Engineer for the remaining phases of the project,” said Chris Stammen, ENERCON’s Vice President.

About Ascend Performance Materials

Ascend is a producer of PA66 resin that provides nylon, plastics, synthetic fibers, and chemicals for commercial and industrial products for several markets, including automotive, electrical/electronics, consumer, and textiles.


Founded in 1983, ENERCON is a leading engineering and environmental services firm that supports the safe and efficient generation, transmission, and distribution of energy for utility and industrial clients.

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