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WKU installing large natural gas boiler at Central Heat Plant

Sustainability efforts at WKU are heating up with the installation of a second large natural gas boiler in as many years at the Central Heat Plant.

A large natural gas boiler was installed March 29 at WKU's Central Heat Plant. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

The boiler, constructed in West Point, Miss., weighs 93,600 pounds, is 27 feet long and can produce 75,000 pounds of steam per hour. Transported by a special heavy haul truck, the boiler arrived at WKU on Tuesday (March 29). A large crane was used to move the boiler into the heat plant.

A 17-foot long boiler that produces 40,000 pounds of steam was installed last year and helped heat the WKU campus this winter. The two large Babcock & Wilcox boilers join an existing small natural gas boiler installed in 1992 and two large coal boilers, one installed in 1956 and the other in 1960.

“The installation of natural gas boilers is part of an overall effort to reduce WKU’s carbon footprint,” Sustainability Director Christian Ryan-Downing said.

The boilers will allow WKU to heat campus using natural gas instead of coal. WKU used only 300 tons of coal this winter compared to 1,700 tons last winter, according to Dale Dyer, plant operations manager for Facilities Management. At one time, WKU used as much as 6,000 tons of coal annually in the boilers at the heat plant, he said.

“The natural gas boilers will help our operations become more efficient as the new boilers are nearly 25 percent more efficient than the old coal boilers. They will also provide a cleaner environment inside our central heat plant,” Dyer said.

Natural gas is currently being supplied by Atmos Energy Marketing.

The installation of natural gas boilers at WKU's Central Heat Plant has been funded by energy savings from conservation and energy managements efforts on campus. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

“The installation of the natural gas boilers is a compliment to our energy management and facilities staff who have been successful in conservation efforts across our campus,” said John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities.

The two natural gas boiler projects were funded with utility savings from conservation and energy management efforts, Ryan-Downing said. “This is an accomplishment that everybody on campus can feel a part of,” she said. “But this project is really close to students’ hearts because many of them have been concerned about how we use coal on campus. They were pleased when our utility savings from campus conservation was being used for gas boilers.”

WKU is working with Johnson Controls on an Energy Savings Performance Contract that includes $9.7 million in energy-reducing and facility improvements to water systems, lighting fixtures and HVAC systems across the campus. The project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21,487 metric tons annually.

“We realize there are sustainability issues with natural gas,” Ryan-Downing said. “It’s not the perfect solution but it’s a great next step.”

The Central Heat Plant, built in 1927 as one of buildings designed by Brinton B. Davis, will become a stop on WKU’s green tour. “A steam plant that is more sustainable and more efficient is something we can be proud of,” Ryan-Downing said.

The plant supplies steam to most campus buildings through a piped distribution system nearly three miles long. Once steam is inside the buildings it is used to heat water for the building heat, domestic water for showers, cooking in dining service kitchens, dishwashing and humidification, Dyer said.

Contact: Dale Dyer or Christian Ryan-Downing, (270) 745-2508

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