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Eco-Friendly Boiler Arrives at UT Steam Plant

July 14, 2015

At just a few miles an hour, the 40-ton boiler moved closer to the University of Tennessee steam plant.

Onlookers took photos and videos with their phones as the semi carrying the boiler on a trailer inched onto Lake Loudoun Boulevard and toward the plant on Monday afternoon.

The installation of the boiler, which uses natural gas and fuel oil to create steam, is one more step in a three-year UT project to convert the steam plant from coal-fired boilers to natural gas and fuel oil boilers.

It’s an effort to be more environmentally friendly and efficient as well as meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“Gas burns greener than coal does,” said Tommy Oakley, interim general superintendent of the steam plant.

In March, the campus hit a milestone of no longer using coal, said Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities services. He said the project is lowering emissions, although it is too soon to know how much energy has been saved.

The overall project is on track to be completed in 2016, Irvin added.

The steam plant serves the UT main campus and Institute of Agriculture campus. Miles of underground steam pipes deliver steam for heat, hot water as well as sterilizers and similar machinery in more than 150 buildings.

Without this project to be more efficient and increase power, the campus wouldn’t have the steam it would need for the buildings currently under construction on campus, Irvin said.

Oakley said the boiler delivery was timed for the summer when the campus uses less steam, and the new boiler that arrived Monday should be installed and ready to go by Labor Day.

He said the next step in the project is for Knoxville Utilities Board to run a larger, high-pressure gas line into the plant so the gas supply will be more consistent. Then the plant’s 300-foot smokestack will come down.

When the project started, two of the five boilers at the plant were strictly coal burning. One of those was replaced last year and the boiler that arrived Monday replaced the second coal-fire boiler.

Those coal boilers were from 1965 and had more moving parts than the new boilers, Oakley said. Plus, he said, there were more steps involved in their use, including removing ash.

But with the new boilers, there will be less parts to replace over time, he said.

Click here for video.

Courtesy of Knoxville News Sentinel

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