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Belknap Campus to phase out use of coal in its steam plant

by UofL Today last modified Jun 21, 2010 09:30 AM

The University of Louisville and the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District (LMAPCD) have agreed on a plan that will phase out coal use by the Belknap Campus steam plant and make natural gas the primary fuel.

Belknap Campus to phase out use of coal in its steam plant

Stacks at the Belknap Campus steam plant.

In an interim period — now until Dec. 31, 2015 — fuel oil will be the backup fuel source, with coal being used only for emergency situations. Coal will not be used at all after 2015.

Earlier this year LMAPCD determined that the coal-fired boiler particulate emissions standard under which UofL had been successfully operating for several years should be more restrictive. The new agreement will keep UofL in compliance with the stricter regulations.

"LMAPCD discovered the oversight when the university asked for a construction permit to install a new, larger natural gas-fired boiler to replace a 43-year-old unit", said Larry Owsley, vice president for business affairs.

"In addition to keeping the university in compliance with air emission standards, the switch in heating fuels will help reduce UofL's carbon footprint and save on our immediate capital investment," he said.

"UofL's 2020 Strategic Plan calls for us to become a more sustainable university. Two major components of this goal are to reduce energy use and our carbon footprint. The steam plant changes will certainly help us to move in that direction," Owsley noted.

To comply with the more restrictive regulation, UofL could install a "bag house" adjacent to the steam plant to filter the particulates from the coal-fired boiler stack emissions.

"But that $8 million price tag was prohibitive," Owsley said.

According to the agreement, UofL will replace the old natural gas-fired boiler by March 15, 2011 and have another natural gas fired unit on the line by Dec. 31, 2015.

Owsley said that UofL could stop using coal as a backup fuel source before the 2015 deadline, depending upon the availability of funding. The price tag for the first natural gas fired boiler is about $2 million. UofL will pay for it and other improvements with money it saves in reduced energy costs through an agreement with Siemens Building Technologies Inc. to update heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, cut back water consumption and install more energy efficient lighting and controls in 69 buildings totaling more than 4.5 million square feet.

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