Construction will start on a new heating facility on campus. To comply with federal environmental regulations, BYU-Idaho will replace its coal-fired boilers with new equipment that uses natural gas, according to a press release by BYU-I.
“The purpose of making the change is because burning coal became unsustainable,” said Rulon Nielsen, director of Facility Planning and Construction.
He said the change from coal to gas happened because of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and the increasing difficulty in obtaining the low-sulfur coal needed to run the boilers.
According to the EPA’s website the new regulations are because of residue from coal combustion. The byproduct leaves the plants and gets into landfills which leaches into ground water.
Nielsen said that the current facility provides steam, which is used for heating water and buildings for the entire campus.
“The new heat plant will allow us to maintain campus facilities in a more efficient manner,” said Wayne Clark, managing director of University Operations.
The estimated total coal consumption in the U.S. for the first half of 2013 was 446 million short tons (MMst) of coal, which is 8.7 percent higher than the amount consumed in the first six months of 2012, according to a report on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) website.
“We decided it was best for the university to change to natural gas,” Nielsen said. “Even with natural gas it is not easy to meet emission standards now.”
He said that just a few weeks after this decision, the new EPA regulations came out.
Nielsen said the university will not burn coal after March 23, 2014, in order to comply with EPA regulations.
According to the Associated Press, more than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants will close and another 36 plants could also be forced to shut down as a result of the new air pollution regulations.
“In order for us to burn coal until March 2014, we have to do boiler checks as part of the EPA requirements,” Nielsen said.
He said the reason so much steam has been leaving the facility recently is because of the boiler checks
“We will spend the next 18 months building the new facility running parallel with Biddulph Hall,” Nielsen said. “The last six months will be demolishing the old one and building a final piece, which will be administrative offices.”
Nielsen said that the Department of Environmental Quality was worried about pollution but is excited about the proposed changes to move to natural gas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the estimated total coal consumption for the second half of 2013 will be 942 MMst, a 5.8 percent increase over 2012.
Nielsen said plans about this project have been discussed among the administration for the past five years.
Nielsen said that construction is projected to be finished in Spring 2015.