Penn State approved for coal-to-gas switch, new gas boilers

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Jan. 13 that it has issued an air quality plan approval to Penn State University for its West Campus steam plant to convert the boilers from coal to natural gas.

“The department has done a very careful and detailed review of this application during the past 15 months to be sure that the proposed project meets the department’s Best Available Technology (BAT) requirements as well as all applicable federal and state air quality regulations,” said DEP North-central Regional Director Marcus Kohl. “In some areas, our plan approval application review exceeded state and federal requirements. We responded to more than 40 written comments received from the public.”

The department has determined that the proposed emission levels of air contaminants satisfy DEP’s best available technology (BAT) requirements, as well as New Source Review and Prevention of Significant Deterioration applicability requirements.

The draft and proposed plan approvals also were sent by DEP to the Environmental Protection Agency for its review. The department addressed EPA’s comments, and EPA concurred with the department’s decision to issue the plan approval.

The Penn State project includes construction of two new natural gas-fired boilers and modification of two existing coal boilers to use only natural gas. It also includes two 25,000 gallon above-ground distillate oil tanks to store fuel oil for back-up use in the two new boilers.

Said the Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania website about this project: “Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is partnering with Pennsylvania State University to convert its West Campus Steam Plant from coal to natural gas. The project involves the installation of 1.9 miles of state-of-the-art pipeline to be installed in State College Borough in order to safely, efficiently and successfully complete this conversion.”

Said the Penn State website: “University Park has a West Campus Steam Plant (WCSP), built in 1929, that provides primary steam production. Its East Campus Steam Plant (ECSP), built in 1972, serves peak steam demands. Currently, 95% of the seam is produced by burning 70,000 tons of coal each year in four 1960s-era boilers. The remaining steam is produced by burning natural gas or fuel oil. The University is now upgrading and improving the efficiency of its steam system. After analyzing a range of alternatives, Penn State plans to convert the WCSP’s coal-fired systems to burn natural gas.”

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.