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Abby Schwimmer
IU Central Heating Plant

Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009

IU Central Heating Plant renovations move forward, support sustainable operation

Feb. 27, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- For years, efforts to reduce pollution emissions from the Indiana University Central Heating Plant (CHP) have been stymied by funding issues. As the plant's current state-funded renovations progress, though, it appears that the university's primary source of steam heat is well on its way to operating more sustainably in the future.

Physical Plant image

A crane lifts a new boiler into place as part of renovations of the IU Central Heating Plant.

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The Central Heating Plant is now ready to test its new equipment by operating coal-fired boilers Nos. 3 and 4 with baghouses, fabric filters that can reduce emissions of particulate matter by as much as 95.5 percent. The filters, along with lime and carbon flue-gas injection systems to neutralize pollution, were installed in Phase II of the renovations.

"This is a significant step for the university," said Mark Menefee, IU assistant director for utilities. "Our investment in the latest technologies will significantly reduce our environmental impact while improving the efficiency of the campus heating systems. This project is a big step toward sustainability for Indiana University."

In the past, although students and staff have proposed upgrading the plant for both mechanical and environmental reasons, budgetary pressures have made it difficult to institute any sweeping changes. The current renovation was finally given the green light in 2006 when the CHP was facing new federal emissions regulations.

Even though the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) federal rule that triggered the renovation was eventually vacated, IU administrators decided to continue the project anyway. In effect, the changes to the plant will allow it to exceed legal requirements, reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds by 68 percent.

During the renovation's first phase, workers removed coal-fired Boilers Nos. 1 and 2, which dated from the mid-1950s, and replaced them with a high-efficiency gas boiler. Boilers Nos. 3 and 4 will continue to burn coal, but with newly installed equipment that dramatically limits harmful pollutants.

Once Phase II is complete, workers will begin Phase III, which will consist of various repairs and technology updates to optimize efficiency and limit waste in the years to come.