Purdue decides against coal boiler, launches energy master plan

February 4, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue Board of Trustees on Friday (Feb. 4) halted plans to install a new coal-fired boiler and approved a proposal to create an energy master plan for the university.

Purdue will ask the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to alter the university's Title V operating permit to allow installation of a natural gas boiler instead of the previously planned circulating fluid bed coal-fired boiler.

The change follows an evaluation of the assumptions made at the time the boiler was first planned along with current and projected cost estimates, said Robert McMains, vice president for physical facilities. The major changes are the estimated costs of fuel due to the drop in gas prices and the likelihood of future regulations with respect to coal use and ash disposal.

Originally, expected savings in operational costs for a coal-fired boiler would have resulted in a long-term economic benefit, however, current gas price projections would extend the payback from savings to well over 20 years. Then, if any regulatory requirements are realized, the payback becomes non-existent, McMains said.

"These are very long-term investments," he said. "As good financial stewards, we double checked our assumptions and found different answers. We will expedite the process to move forward with an energy master plan that will enable us to provide a holistic assessment that will include an evaluation of long-term energy needs and the best locations to site various components to best support the future growth of the campus.

"We will analyze all options as they are presented and move toward a sustainable and economical solution for our energy needs."

The university's other natural gas boiler, approved earlier, is expected to be online by the next heating season. Purdue's Wade Utility Plant supplies steam for heating and chilled water for cooling as well as about half of the electricity for the West Lafayette campus.

Writer:  Jeanne Norberg, 765-494-2084, jnorberg@purdue.edu

Source:  Robert McMains, 765-494-8000, remcmains@purdue.edu