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Powering Up

Biomass boiler likely to reduce coal burning by more than 25 percent

POWERING UP Gregg Coffin, Power Plant superintendent, expects the biomass boiler to be at full capacity sometime in Feburary. The plant powers and heats more than 13 million square feet of campus buildings. Rob Hill photo


New boiler expected to be at full capacity by early February

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). 

Read the rest at the Mizzou Weekly >>