Veolia’s upgrade of Philadelphia’s creaking district heating network is officially inaugurated today, cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions through a switch from fuel oil to natural gas.

Swapping the 163 MW Grays Ferry cogeneration power plant to gas through a $60m investment in ­­­new boilers and pipelines will slash bills as well as provide eco-friendly ‘green steam’, according to Veolia (NYSE:VE).

Grays Ferry CHP plant in Philadelphia

The combined heat and power (CHP) plant can now produce 4.0 million pounds per hour of steam and and has a chilled water capacity of 7000 tons. Grays Ferry supplies a 26-mile network with three steam production facilities and one chilled water facility to supply 300 customers.

The overhaul was partly prompted by the University of Pennsylvania, which takes 40% of the project’s output and had looked into setting up its own steam network.

Anne Papageorge, the university’s vice-president of facilities and real estate management, said the upgrade reflected how institutions can use their buying power to advance ‘common strategies, common philosophies’.

Under a new city law, owners of large commercial building in Philadelphia must report their energy consumption, which will be used for ‘benchmarking’ properties.

Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael A Nutter, will attend the inauguration.

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