Purdue unveils plan that would back out coal usage on campus

Purdue University officials in Indiana on May 7 presented the new Comprehensive Energy Master Plan (CEMP), which would back out the use of coal at campus facilities, to the Board of Trustees Physical Facilities Committee.

The plan calls for $33.1m to be used to demolish an old coal-burning boiler, convert another coal-burning boiler to natural gas, install a natural gas-fired combined heat and power unit, and increase steam distribution along Jischke Drive. This money had originally been slated to build a new clean-coal boiler.

Purdue, located near the Indiana coalfields, had traditionally been a strong backer, through clean coal research and on-campus coal usage, of the state’s coal industry. But a campus desire for “sustainable” energy, and an aggressive anti-coal campaign from the Sierra Club targeted at universities and colleges nationwide, have taken their toll.

The Purdue trustees requested in 2011 that the university create a comprehensive energy plan to identify and meet the long-term energy needs on the West Lafayette campus. Consultant Burns & McDonnell was hired to assist physical facilities in the plan’s development. Once a draft was created, the university provided online, mail and face-to-face public comment opportunities in the first two months of 2012.

“The integrated planning process formed a strategic framework for making fiscally sound and sustainable choices regarding energy production, distribution and demand that will serve the university for years to come,” said Robert McMains, vice president for physical facilities. “The CEMP will improve operating performance and position the campus for a more sustainable future.”

The CEMP is considered a “living” document that will be revisited and updated to keep it current.

Boiler 1 at the Wade Utility Plant is a coal stoker boiler that was originally installed in 1961 and is scheduled to be retired during 2012. The loss of steam production from Boiler 1, coupled with anticipated demand growth results in a capacity deficiency that must be addressed to meet campus demand, said the CEMP. Consequently Purdue is faced with a near-term decision concerning what type of steam production asset should be installed. The CEMP analyzed a new gas boiler as well as three different size combined heat and power (CHP) options. Steam demand forecasts and associated capacity plans were developed through 2038.

“Purdue is at a decision point regarding the technology to be implemented to replace the capacity of Boiler 1,” said the report. “A traditional gas boiler or a combined heat and power (CHP) system are the most viable options to add this capacity. The economic analysis indicates that both solutions have merit. Purdue will face another decision point when Boiler 2 is retired in the next decade. Installing a gas boiler now and deferring the decision to install CHP to when Boiler 2 is replaced is the lowest first cost option. The CHP system has a higher first cost, but provides an annual savings to the University. In the years until Boiler 2 is replaced, the savings is small and it becomes more significant after Boiler 2 is replaced.”

Indiana coal is the prime fuel source for the Wade Utility Plant, said the Purdue website. During fiscal year 2010-11, Wade consumed 66,913 tons of high-sulfur coal, 122,363 tons of low-sulfur coal, 111,242 tons of limestone, and 1,121,760 Therms of natural gas.

Steam is produced by the combustion of coal, natural gas and fuel oil in the plant boilers. During fiscal year 2010-11, the Wade plant boilers produced 3,265,726 klb. Steam production peaked at a level of 646,040 lb/hr.

The Wade Plant produces electricity using two steam turbine driven generators and one diesel engine driven generator that operate in parallel with the local electric utility. Because of campus seasonal process steam requirements of winter heating and summer cooling, electricity is generated through a topping cycle that often results in production costs that are lower than those available from local utility tariff pricing. During fiscal year 2010-11, the university had a peak system demand level of 50,500 kW and consumed a total of 299,652,652 kWh of electricity. Wade generation equipment produced 127,078,195 kWh with the remaining balance supplied by the local electric utility, the website said.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.