U.Va. Heating Plant Renovation Closer to Completion

January 11, 2007

Jan. 11, 2007 -- The University’s central heating plant renovation is down to its last new boiler.

The plant, located on Jefferson Park Avenue next to the Health System complex , provides heat to 164 buildings, among them the Rotunda, student dormitories and the Medical Center. It will also supply heat to many of the proposed building projects, including the South Lawn project and the new McIntire School of Commerce addition being added to Rouss Hall.

“This is designed to handle the next 20 years growth with additional capacity on standby,” Cheryl L. Gomez, director of energy & utilities for the University, said of the main plant renovation.

The project, to be completed by the end of 2007, will renovate and/or replace boilers, upgrade the pollution controls and increase fuel storage. In the plant upgrade, boilers three and four have been replaced and boiler two has been renovated.

“The old No. 1 boiler has been demolished, and a new one is being built now,” Gomez said. “We hope to have it ready to fire on one fuel by spring.” Subsequent to the new boiler No. 1 being operational, existing boiler 5 will be renovated.

There are five dual-fuel boilers in the heat plant. Boilers one, two and five burn coal and natural gas, while boilers three and four use natural gas and low-sulphur fuel oil. The renovations shift the oil burners from a viscous oil to a thinner fuel similar to diesel.

The new boilers have state-of-the-art pollution controls while new bag houses and scrubbers have been added to the two renovated boilers. Bag houses trap particulate matter from burning coal, and scrubbers capture oxides of sulfur, metals and others gases produced in burning coal. These renovations will bring the heating plant into compliance with all known and foreseeable state and federal environmental regulations, Gomez said.

During the renovation, coal has been 56 percent of the fuel used. Once the project is complete, Gomez said the target is to use about 95 percent coal, because it is the most economical fuel.
“Last year the University spent $7.6 million on fuel,” Gomez said. “Coal is the least expensive.”
Fuel cost for the 2007-2008 fiscal year only would drop to $5.1 million if the central heat plant burned 95 percent coal.

The plans also call for the construction of a fifth coal storage silo on the site. The plant can now store approximately 3,600 tons of coal, and a new silo will offer about 950 additional tons of coal storage.

“The main heat plant provides steam and hot water for health care, research, comfort heating, domestic hot water and food service uses,” said E. Scott Martin, utility systems analyst for Facilities Management. “The use of steam for health care and research include using steam for sanitization and sterilization, and using steam-to-steam generators for humidification. Many vital and critical aspects of providing quality health care and research environments are dependent on the availability of high quality, affordable steam products.”

The plant has remained in operation during the renovation, though some work and planned maintenance were done during a Saturday shut-down in October.

“We shut off the steam at 7 a.m. and relit the fire at 3:30 p.m.,” said Kent Knicely, heating plants manager. “We were back up to about 100 pounds pressure in the boilers by 5:30 p.m.”

 This is the third central heating plant in the University’s history, according to Garth Anderson, resource center manager for Facilities Management. In addition to the central heating plant, there is a small heating plant on Massie Road to service the John Paul Jones Arena, and a separate plant for the North Grounds.

The first was located where new Cabell Hall is now, and it supplied heat and electricity to Old Cabell, Rouss and Cocke halls. The second plant, built around 1923, was located on Jefferson Park Avenue and the train line, so it could take coal deliveries by rail. The hospital laundry was located next to the power plant to take advantage of the steam.

The current plant was built in 1950 to accommodate the post-war expansion that saw the construction of the McCormick Road dorms, the physics building and new Cabell Hall. An extensive system of tunnels and pipes was installed throughout the Grounds and the plant’s capacity increased over the years. The fifth boiler was installed around 1986 when the new hospital was being built.

Anderson said the first heating plant was tied to the engineering program so the students could study its operation. The plant also generated direct current electricity for the Grounds and the University shifted over to the alternating current system that the city was installing around 1917.