Central Steam System Study

Tower Health Reading, Pennsylvania



Tower Health was considering upgrades for their campus-wide steam heating system at their Reading Hospital location. The system consists of a large network of steam and condensate piping throughout the campus and two steam generating plants: a newer combined heat and power plant (CHP) that uses combustion turbines to produce both steam and electricity and a second plant containing three 900 hp Burnham firetube boilers that produce steam. The CHP had recently been converted from a demand peaking plant to 24/7 operation, making it the primary source of steam for the campus, with the firetube boilers serving as an auxiliary steam plant. However, deficiencies within the current system would not allow full load operation of the CHP.

Tower Health contracted us to provide a high-level study of their CHP and auxiliary plants to quantify deficiencies and identify potential solutions and opportunities to optimize the steam system. The project focused on reducing energy use, resolving system issues, and improving and consolidating the equipment controls. Optimizing the system for energy efficiency was an important part of the overall strategy at Tower Health; however, reliability of the system was the primary concern.

Solution Details

Our analysis concluded that the major equipment within the existing CHP and auxiliary plants and the distribution system was in good condition and that with proper maintenance and proper water conditioning, the equipment should provide reliable service for years to come. We identified opportunities for Tower Health to maintain the steam system and increase its efficiency, including repairing deficient components, upgrading the control system, installing meters on the condensate return and makeup water systems, updating steam traps, and reconfiguring the condensate return piping. We recommended an economic analysis to determine the payback potential of installing stack economizers, since the improvement’s effectiveness would be dependent on specific operational factors.

To resolve pressure and volume issues and allow for full load operation of the CHP plant, we recommended that gas be provided from an existing high pressure gas line 1/2 mile away from the CHP plant. We also recommended that another bypass damper be installed to allow for complete flue gas bypass of the heat recovery steam generator when steam production is not desired.

Finally, we advised Tower Health to conduct further analysis of the CHP system to understand the deficiencies of the associated electrical and chilled water utility systems and the impact they have on the steam system assessed during this study. A subsequent full economic analysis of the CHP system would then allow Tower Health to quantify the full optimization and payback potential of identified improvement opportunities.

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2 steam plants studied

3 900HP firetube boilers + CHP