A B10 Success

Taunton State Hospital has been heating with B10 biofuel for about a year and is preparing to use B20 starting in the spring of 2008, said Ken Lortie, director of engineering and facilities management for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). That’s because the B10 blend worked out so well on the hospital’s 500-horsepower Cleaver-Brooks boilers, installed in 1993.

‘We’re very pleased with the performance,” Lortie said. ‘We really feel it’s a win-win situation for the facility and the Commonwealth.”

The hospital’s heating system was switched to B3 initially, in November 2006; after three or four weeks the blend was increased to B5; and in January 2007 it was increased to B10, Lortie said. The boilers were designed as dual fuel units, for No.2 heating oil or natural gas, and had been run on both over the years. ‘They ran primarily on natural gas in the colder months,” Lortie said. ‘Preparing the system for the biofuel was no different than [switching to] No. 2 heating oil and involves replacing the ‘burner gun,’ a process that takes about 20 minutes.”

There were no cold flow complications with the biofuel. ‘We haven’t experienced that at all, but our fuel tank is located inside the power plant so it’s in a heated area,” Lortie said.

Working on the project were Dennis K. Burke, Inc., Chelsea, Mass., and James Condon, engineer at Taunton State Hospital, which was built in 1851 and operates 13 separate buildings with more than 400,000 square feet. The buildings include five houses and a greenhouse that also were being switched to B10, Lortie said in December. ‘We’re going to run through the winter on the bio,” he said.

The cost of the biofuel used last year was about three cents per gallon more than conventional No. 2 heating oil, according to Lortie, but because the biofuel blend contained less sulfur, it caused less wear and tear on the equipment and resulted in reduced emissions. The pilot program was rated a success.

‘What we’re finding this year is more and more fuel suppliers are going to offer it,” Lortie said of the biofuel, ‘and the cost is actually evening out. So we’re really not seeing much of a difference in fuel costs.”

The equipment, inspected after having run on B10, passed with flying colors. ‘We actually noticed a marked improvement over the standard No. 2,” Lortie said. ‘It was much cleaner. There was much less scaling. We monitor emissions on our smokestack, and we noticed a marked drop in our noxious emissions as well. The fact that our emissions are down, our equipment is burning cleaner ‘ we feel is going to help our equipment in the long run. So any cost difference we pay for the fuel is really going to be offset by the longevity of our equipment, easier maintenance and the emissions improvements. We really feel that it’s a benefit.”

Taunton State Hospital was recognized for its use of biofuel at the AltWheels Festival, an event held last fall in Boston. The annual festival is designed to educate the public about alternative energy choices.

The hospital engineer, James Condon, accepted a Green Pioneer Award, which recognizes regional leaders in their efforts ‘to create a greener future.”

Taunton State Hospital was the second-largest user of bio-diesel fuel among the award winners and the only recipient to use bio-diesel fuel for heating purposes. According to the AltWheels presenters, the hospital used 14,344 gallons of B100 equivalent (143,440 gallons of B10). That figure was based on the amount of biofuel purchased in the first half of 2007.

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