A look inside MU's new biomass boiler

Monday, October 17, 2011 | 1:30 p.m. CDT; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 17, 2011

COLUMBIA — MU's new wood-burning boiler, supplied by Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc.,  is a bubbling fluidized bed boiler. Gas is piped in to ignite a boiling bed of sand to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which in turn ignites the wood, which is fed into the boiler through gravity.

Once the wood is ignited, the gas can be turned off, and the wood will continue to burn itself and produce heat.  This heat is used to boil water and produce steam, which is used to generate electricity.  The steam will also be used to heat and cool the campus using a process called combined heat and power.

Combined heat and power allows the plant to utilize up to 60 percent of the wood’s stored energy, which is more than double the efficiency rate of producing only electricity from burning wood.

“We chose a technology that gave us a lot of flexibility with fuel,” said Gregg Coffin, superintendent of the MU power plant.

The boiler is able to burn a variety of fuels, such as corncobs and grasses, and can even use natural gas if necessary, Coffin said.

It will be able to use some components of the old coal boiler structure, such as the water system, steam pipes and filtration devices. 

“It made good economic sense,” Coffin said.

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