Emissions to decrease as Central Heating Plant switches to natural gas

On a quiet Friday last month when the campus was mostly deserted for Veterans Day, Tufts Facilities shut down the Central Heating Plant located between Dowling and East Halls to have the chimney cleaned. No, it was not to help Santa stay soot- free this Christmas – it was the final step in getting the gas turned on for the winter.

New (yellow) gas lines were installed at the Central Heating Plant this past fall

The plant began using natural gas as its main fuel on November 30 and significantly lightened Tufts’ carbon footprint in Medford. CO2 emissions in FY 2012 in the Medford campus are estimated to decrease by 8% from FY 2011 levels despite a projected increase in energy consumption by 7.8%.

According to Tufts’ Director of Facilities Technical Services Betsy Isenstein, the transition is the result of “a fortunate confluence of events”.

Unbeknownst to most people who live and work on the Tufts Medford campus, the central heating plant was forced to switch fuels in the middle of last winter from burning No. 6 to No. 2 fuel oil because of a shipment of substandard No. 6 fuel that could not be used. No. 6 fuel oil (also known “bunker C” or residual fuel oil) is the heaviest, thickest, cheapest, and – not surprisingly – the dirtiest of six available grades of fuel oil in the US.

One of two updated boilers

Shortly afterwards, a routine inspection led to the discovery of issues with two of the fuel tanks outside the central heating plant and prompted the university to move up scheduled upgrades for two boilers that were installed in the 80s. The upgraded boilers are not only more efficient, but they have the ability to burn both natural gas and No. 2 fuel oil.

With the price of natural gas at a historic low, the fuel switch made economic as well as environmental sense. National Grid installed a new gas line from Boston Avenue up to Central Heating Plant and upgraded 1,100 feet of gas main along Boston Avenue last summer in order to bring the amount of natural gas needed up the hill to supply the central heating plant.

The new yellow gas lines look very sharp next to old fuel piping which will be replaced in the near future. #2 fuel will be maintained as a backup.

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