May 13, 2004

Boiler project could expand market for Illinois coal

by Sue Davis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees today (May 13) approved a $5.7 million, collaborative project that will let scientists and engineers test a new process that could help many schools and government agencies breathe new life into older heating and cooling systems.

It's a collaborative process funded by the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, a private corporation, and SIU's Carbondale campus.

In the next few months, workers will retrofit an aging coal-fired boiler at SIUC's steam plant with a new system designed to improve the boiler's efficiency and to allow the boiler to use a less-expensive grade of Illinois coal. During the process, workers will also install a new emission system for the boiler. If the technology works, it will help the University meet new Environmental Protection Agency standards for emissions that take effect in 2007.

In taking on the project, the University will continue to showcase ways Illinois coal can be burned cleanly.

"This process has only been used for burning landfill waste, but we believe the technology should work just as well for coal," said Philip S. Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations at SIUC. "It will take an existing boiler that has not worked well and make it dependable and efficient. We'll document the results so others can evaluate making similar upgrades down the road."

SIUC will pay just $150,000 toward the retrofit. DCEO funding ($3.35 million) and funds from Barlow Projects Inc. of Liberty, Mo., ($2.23 million) will cover the lion's share of the expense. Barlow Projects developed the new technology, formally trademarked as theAireal combustion technology and the SOILIOS emission removal system.

Work will begin this summer and the new boiler should be ready by the time the University turns on the heat in late fall. If it works out the way engineers believe it will, the University could use the same technology to update its other boiler of identical design that is in better working order before 2007.

SIUC's steam plant also has a gas-fired boiler for peak periods and the large circulating fluidized bed boiler.