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Heating Plant to Add Natural Gas

By Amanda Golden
On October 4, 2012

Colgate is in the process of modernizing the heating plant on campus, aiming to com­plete renovations by 2014. The project, which involves many campus stakeholders including the Board of Trustees, the Presi­dent's Office, the Facilities De­partment and the Sustainability Council, was approved as part of the University's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. It is to be made possible with financial support from Capital Projects.

"Colgate's central heating plant provides heat and hot wa­ter for 37 main campus build­ings," Director of Sustainability John Pumilio said.

He explained that the plant, which was constructed in 1907 as a coal-fired plant, was converted to utilize fuel oil number #6, a relatively cheap but polluting bunker fuel, in 1966. By 1981, Colgate added a wood chip boiler to be the main supply of energy to campus.

Wood chips are carbon neu­tral, cost effective and support the local economy (since the wood is supplied locally as is the labor which brings it to campus), and Colgate continues to use them, approximating about 100 tons of wood chips for a cold day in winter. But as the campus has expanded over the years, the wood boiler can no longer meet all of the school's heating needs, which causes the fuel oil #6 to be used as a backup.

"On an annual basis, wood chips provide about 80 percent of the energy produced from our central plant, while fuel oil #6 provides the remaining 20 percent," Pumilio said.

The changes proposed will not restructure Colgate's methods for heating, but intend to make them more environmentally sound.

"Our wood chip boiler will remain the same," Pumilio said. "The heating plant up­grade will replace fuel oil #6 with natural gas. Natural gas is cheaper, will reduce our campus carbon footprint by about 1,200 tons annually, and is a reliable backup to wood chips."

The decision to integrate the new fuel source was one that the University made after careful research.

"Our fuel oil burners are aging and need to be replaced," Pumilio said. "Because fuel oil #6 is a dirty fuel we need to find an alterna­tive. After exploring many options including expansion of the wood chip facility, vegetable oil, fuel oil #2 and others, we concluded that natural gas presents the most viable option to meet the many demands necessary for meeting our energy needs."

Pumilio commented that the renovations would be a positive addition to many within the community, both environmentally and financially.

"This project will ultimately benefit every member of the Colgate family and Hamilton community by providing cleaner air," Pumilio said. "Natural gas has much lower emissions (e.g., carbon, particulate, heavy metals, sulphur dioxide and others) than fuel oil #6 and will bring us much closer to meeting our carbon neutrality goal by 2019. Additionally, switching from fuel oil #6 to natural gas will significantly reduce our annual energy bill. That money can be better used for other campus priorities."

Contact Amanda Golden at

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