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Biomass boiler may reduce burning by 25 percent

December 7th, 2012

Contended as the biggest sustainable energy undertaking on any major American university campus, Power Plant Superintendent Greg Coffin expects to reduce coal burning by at least 25 percent. The new biomass boiler will use sustainably-sourced biomass which reduce the power plant’s emissions and significantly shrink the university’s carbon footprint. The new project will support the Sustainable Energy Mizzou Advantage initiative.

Story by Mizzou Weekly

After roughly four years of analysis and design, two years of construction and road closures, 150 contracted employees and $75 million of equipment and labor, Gregg Coffin will be relieved when MU’s new biomass boiler is operating at full capacity.

“In the course of a project, you’re always excited when you get close to the end,” said Coffin, the Power Plant superintendent. “It’s a relief to start seeing [contractors] leave and things get finished so we can work our way back to normal.”

He’s almost there.

In late November, the inside lining of the new 85-foot-tall boiler finished curing, allowing the plant to burn biomass. The boiler burns natural gas during the start-up phase, but Coffin hoped to be running solely on biomass sometime this month.

It’s an incremental process to bring the boiler to full capacity — workers add fuel, adjust the oxygen levels to calibrate the burn, add a little more fuel, recalibrate and so on. The ramping-up process will likely continue into February. At that point they’ll test to make sure they’re meeting the capacity, emissions and efficiency standards promised by the boiler manufacturer.

The work is the final phase of a project started in 2007 when the university contemplated how to replace one of the power plant’s old and increasingly unreliable coal-fired boilers. A design team researched new boiler options and found that biomass was the best choice from both an ownership cost and emissions standpoint.

The $75 million boiler is being financed primarily through bonds repaid from power plant revenue (the plant charges campus units for steam and electricity usage).

With the new boiler, Coffin expects to reduce coal usage by more than 25 percent. The biomass boiler will use sustainably-sourced biomass, which will reduce the power plant’s emissions and shrink the university’s carbon footprint. He contends that the project is the biggest sustainable energy undertaking on any major American university campus. More…