Sponsor Spotlight: HURST BOILER

After four years of operating, a New Hampshire county biomass heating project has replaced nearly all of its heating oil consumption.
By Harriet Lublin | November 04, 2017

Sullivan County had been interested in utilizing biomass as a fuel source for quite some time, in order to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. After much research by Facilities Director John Cressy and his team, the county chose to install a biomass-fueled combined-heat-and-power system (CHP), featuring a MMBtu-per-hour Hurst boimass boiler packaged with a 40-kilowatt steam turbine and electric generator to serve the energy needs for the county’s nursing home (166 beds), and administrative and prison complex (168 beds) in Unity, New Hampshire. The campus includes over 215,000 square feet of conditioned space, served by a steam distribution system including 1,000 feet of preinsulated, underground steel piping.

According to Cressy, there was an initiative and a feasibility study for a biomass project in progress when he arrived five years prior, but it did not meet Sullivan County’s expectations, and the entire project was shelved. Then, the USDA Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center stepped in, and offered to do a new real-time feasibility study. “The study blew our minds,” he says. “The numbers looked almost too good to be true.”

In the meantime, Cressy was busy researching biomass boilers for the project, looking at almost two dozen plants to see what they were currently using. “I ran into a competitor of Hurst at a biomass conference, and was shown some of their biomass equipment. We liked the robust nature of the walking floor concept, so I specified it in our open bid package. The equipment specified by the winning bidder turned out to be Hurst Boiler of Coolidge, Georgia. I hadn’t even heard of Hurst, but after learning what I have, I am delighted that they were central to our overall project.”

Bob Waller and his company, Thermal Systems Inc., the authorized Hurst Boiler representative serving Maine and New Hampshire, coordinated and performed all specification and procurement services for the project. Waller and TSI oversaw the development of the equipment specifications, the equipment arrangement design, and the procurement of the components necessary to meet the requirements of the county initiative.

The benefits of the biomass system have exceeded the county’s expectations. In just the first four months of operation, the county realized a 20 percent savings out of its $500,000 annual fuel budget, and the county expects that the annual fuel savings will pay for the construction bond within 15 years. In calendar year 2014, the county saved around $200,000 in fuel costs, out of a little over $500,000. On top of that, about $100,000 in heating fuel expenditures stays within the local economy. With the sale of energy credits, the county expects to receive a minimum of $75,000 per year of offsetting revenue.

Inspired by the success of this project, Cressy has been working on educational outreach within the county about the benefits of biomass energy. “One of the most important parts of this biomass initiative is building public awareness of the benefits of lessening dependence on fossil and foreign fuels, thus putting more dollars into the local economy,” he says. Cressy adds that most of the wood chips used for fuel are found within a 10-mile radius of the county complex.

The CHP system also provides all of the steam and some electricity to the facilities. The jail has a commercial laundry that was already using steam dryers, so both steam and hot water are provided to the laundry by the biomass plant. The system also lends about 5 to 10 percent of the total electricity load a year to the turbine generator set at the nursing home. Cressy explains that it is not cost effective to make steam solely for electricity generation, as it is cheaper to purchase through the public utility. However, if the steam already being used to heat the building and hot water is utilized, it’s close to free. The amount of electricity produced is based on the amount of steam the nursing home demands, so it varies over the course of the year.

The goal of the project has been to get as close as possible to replacing 100 percent of the previously used fuel oil and propane gas with wood chips, and that objective has nearly been achieved in just a few short years—as of 2017, the system replaces 95 percent of fuel oil purchases on campus, and 10 percent of electricity purchases in the nursing home

Author: Harriet Lublin
Media relations, Hurst Boiler