Modernising CHP: Upgrading Kodak’s giant industrial park plant

Developer and operator of industrial-scale CHP systems Recycled Energy Development has acquired the CHP-based utility infrastructure at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, US, from Kodak. RED now aims to update the 100-year-old plant, including conversion from coal to gas, while keeping tenants supplied. Steve Hodgson reports.

More than a year after President Obama set a goal to see 40 GW of new industrial-scale CHP capacity installed in the US, we are still waiting to see some results, i.e. some major new plants being commissioned. The August 2012 White House executive order called for a 50% increase in US CHP capacity by 2020 to lower both energy costs and carbon emissions, and also increase the competitiveness and job-creating capabilities of US industry. The order was backed up, not with federal money, but with assistance from the Department of Energy to state energy officials (see box on p.38).

DOE tackles industrial energy efficiency

Industrial processes ” from petroleum refineries and paper mills to chemicals and metals industries ” consume about one third of all energy produced in the US, says the Department of Energy. The DOE sees great potential in expanding what it calls ‘traditional’ technologies like CHP that strengthen manufacturing competitiveness, lower energy consumption and reduce harmful emissions.
Last August, President Obama directed federal agencies to help facilitate investments in industrial energy efficiency, such as CHP systems, that can save manufacturers as much as $100 billion in energy costs over the next decade. The President’s executive order established a new national goal of 40 GW of new CHP capacity by 2020 ” a 50% increase from today. Meeting this goal would save American manufacturers and companies $10 billion each year, resulting in $40 to $80 billion in new capital investment in plants and facilities that would create American jobs and reduce emissions equivalent to taking 25 million cars off the road, says the DOE.
The DOE is already helping grow the market for CHP through its Regional Clean Energy Application Centers, which provide technical assistance to US manufacturers, businesses, hospitals and universities to help them consider the business case for CHP investments. Since 2009, the centres have helped numerous organizations understand how CHP, waste heat to power and district energy can improve their bottom lines, lower energy bills and help protect the environment.
The President’s executive order on industrial energy efficiency also directed federal agencies, including the DOE, to convene regional workshops to help overcome barriers to expanded CHP investment. These workshops focus on developing and implementing state best practice policies and investment models that unlock new opportunities in industrial energy efficiency and CHP.
The DOE is also expanding its technical assistance reach, with $11 million over the next four years to support several regional Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnerships across the country ” the next generation Regional Clean Energy Application Centers. These organizations will provide fact-based information on CHP technologies and project financing to commercial and industrial businesses, as well as state agencies, electricity and gas utilities and trade associations.

However, ICF International, which maintains a database of US CHP capacity, has identified more than 4 GW of new plants either under development or being built, and suggests that we need to wait around two years ” enough time to see a plant designed, permitted and built ” before real growth can be measured. Suggestions are that lowered gas prices are encouraging chemical and other manufacturing businesses back into the US; with California, Texas and the Northeast as the likeliest places to see new plants built.

But, for progress to be made in overall US CHP capacity, existing CHP plants need to be kept in business through whatever economic conditions are thrown at them and, where necessary, updated. One large-scale example is the CHP-based utility infrastructure at a huge business park in Rochester, New York, now under new ownership, to be modernised including conversion from coal to gas-fired operation.

Eastman Business Park
Showing the scale of the project, this aerial view of the Eastman Business Park includes the steam/power plant and some of the surrounding industrial park

The deal has been closed to transition ownership of the utility infrastructure at the Eastman Business Park (EBP) from the Eastman Kodak Company, once the plant’s major customer, to Illinois-based specialist CHP developer and operator Recycled Energy Development (RED). The park is one of the largest and most diverse industrial and technology complexes in the US, and RED principals have a 30-year track record of developing and operating CHP and waste-to-energy projects for industrial companies.

The agreement should increase energy efficiency at the site, cut carbon emissions, provide stability for the park and its tenants, and support EBP’s revitalisation ” the economic development in the area is a top priority of the state government.

Business parks housing a variety of industrial companies provide a unique and potentially very important niche for efficient, large-scale CHP-based energy systems, as suitable multiple heat loads are usually present. Further, heat loads at one company could be matched to ‘waste’ heat streams of another or, more likely, heat loads can be amalgamated and served from one system. A host of other utilities can be supplied more efficiently, and thus at lower cost, to a group of businesses too.

Utility systems at EBP

Located outside Rochester, New York, close to Lake Ontario, the 500 hectares EBP contains over 100 buildings, 230,000 m2 of space and over 80 km of integrated roads and rail. It was Kodak’s primary manufacturing site for more than a century and is still home to Kodak employees, but the park now houses around 35 tenants, including many from the clean energy sector. One of the newest is a battery and energy storage testing and commercialization centre for global energy consultant DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability. Another, due to open next year, is a research and manufacturing facility for lithium sulphur battery materials and battery-cell prototypes.

The park’s substantial energy supply infrastructure provides up to 125 MW of electricity, plus steam, chilled water, compressed air, industrial water, sewer services, nitrogen, natural gas and potable water. It is this that RED is about to take control of and upgrade, as part of a wider deal on the future of the park.

Kodak recently emerged from bankruptcy, having failed to adapt sufficiently to the development of digital photography and having shed many of the businesses that made it famous.

RED is acquiring the comprehensive utilities infrastructure and over 100 of the existing employees, and will continue to supply electricity, steam, water, refrigeration, compressed air and nitrogen, as well as treat wastewater for EBP. Tenants and property owners, inlcuding Kodak, will continue to enjoy reliable and economical utility services as a critical step in the collective efforts to revitalise the park.

steam/chilled water distribution infrastructure at EBP
A small part of the steam/chilled water distribution infrastructure at EBP

The utility infrastructure includes a trigeneration system, based on utility-grade boilers, to generate power steam at four different pressure levels, and refrigeration for comfort cooling. It currently comprises:

  • 125 MW of electricity generation capacity, all through back-pressure steam turbine generators ” though current on-site electrical loads are more like 40 MW to 80 MW;
  • a 41 MW bi-directional interconnect to the grid;
  • 940 tonnes/h steam generation capacity via four coal-fired boilers, with an additional 180 tonnes/h capacity from oil-fired backup boilers;
  • 64,000 tonnes of chilling capacity, virtually all steam driven using low-pressure steam from back-pressure turbine generators;
  • 190,000 m3/day water intake/purification facility bringing industrial and boiler water from Lake Erie;
  • 200,000 m3/day sewer treatment facility, processing power plant water discharge and industrial effluent;
  • 19 m3/s compressed air generation capacity;
  • 140,000 scfh nitrogen generation capacity;
  • 25 litres/s ultra-high purity water generation capacity; and
  • around 140+ km of utility distribution infrastructure.

Electricity is generated at 13.8 kV and distributed throughout the park on a small grid with underground redundant feeds to double-ended load centres/substations for the highest reliability and power quality Double-ended load centres are designed to provide full load with either feeder out of service. Typical delivery to customers is a nominal 480 V, three-phase alternating current. EBP also has back-up interconnections with the public utility.

Coal-to-gas conversion

RED-Rochester and Kodak’s initial acquisition agreement was signed in December 2012, and the parties have been working since then to finalise customer contracts and secure various operating permits. RED aims to make significant investments over the next five years in a variety of energy efficiency improvements, and to convert the plant from coal to natural gas.

EBP chilled water plants
EBP ” some of the cooling towers associated with one of the chilled water plants

In particular, the coal-fired boilers are subject to federal Environmental Protection Agency MACT rules on boiler emissions compliance, and must have extensive emission controls in place by January 2017 to continue operation. RED plans eventually to replace the coal boilers with combined-cycle gas turbines and reduce CO2 emissions by over 700,000 tonnes per year, while also reducing the cost of utility services to EBP tenants. This conversion requires many steps, including permits, additional gas supply and financing, and will be a major focus for the company in the next few years.

The key to RED’s acquisition is the company’s willingness to look beyond the costs and hassle of applying MACT rules to boilers which predate the 1970 Clean Air Act. ‘Lots of bidders looked at the plant but most were scared off by the complexity of the purchase.’ says RED president and CEO Sean Casten. ‘However, the plant still operates at an efficiency of around 75% so, by gradually upgrading the generation plant to a gas and steam turbines CHP plant, and keeping most of the existing energy distribution systems, we saw a long-term solution to keeping the park in business.’

The plant cannot be switched to gas immediately, though, as there is not enough natural gas available locally. Installing a new gas main, with the necessary permissions and easements, will take some time.

Meanwhile, the situation is complicated further by regulatory issues over emissions. Installing back-end pollution controls on the existing boilers would be expensive, says Casten, but could work. But going down this route would not only deliver considerably less environmental benefit than conversion to gas-fired CHP, but would also work against future conversion. Permitting for plant changes relies upon data from the last five years of operation and RED needs to measure improvements from the current plant arrangement, rather than one with expensive new controls installed.

Casten is certain that these issues will be solved. The park is a significant local employer and it is in everyone’s interest to modernise and clean up the utility system to keep EBP in business.

What makes the scheme so iconic is the long history it shares with Eastman Kodak, the sheer size of the park, and the range of utility products that it provides to tenants.

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