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A crane transports equipment as part of the upgrade of the university's steam plant.Big changes are already taking place at the UT Steam Plant as part of its ongoing conversion project.

The project, which began in March, includes the elimination of coal use at the plant through the replacement of the plant’s coal-fired boilers with high-efficiency, natural gas/fuel oil boilers.

In the months since the beginning of the project, coal boiler #3 has been removed, five 25,000-pound diesel tanks have been installed, and numerous equipment upgrades have been made.

“Everything so far has gone really well,” said steam plant general superintendent Darryl Ford. “The contractors are working really well with us and they are actually trying to do some things that weren’t scheduled until later phases.”

The IC Thomasson firm is the project designer. Southern Constructors is the general contractor with many subcontractors, including Massey Electric and Interstate Mechanical.

The project’s first phase includes the removal of coal boiler #3, the installation of a new gas boiler, the replacement of major electrical equipment such as the motor control centers within the plant, and installation of new feed water lines and diesel tanks.

Phase one work is currently on schedule with the new boiler slated to be delivered to the plant in early September. This new boiler is set to be installed and operational by the start of the campus heating season in October.

“While we expected the project to move along on schedule, it has been surprising for one of this complexity to do so without major adjustments,” said utilities director Roy Warwick. “This is a testament not only to the designers and contractors but to our folks at the steam plant and others in Facilities Services who have assisted by sharing their knowledge with the design and construction team.”

The natural gas boiler will work with the existing coal boiler to provide steam for campus.

“This will be our last winter burning coal,” Ford said.

In March, after the heating season is over, the second phase of the project will begin. This will include the decommissioning and removal of coal boiler #2, the addition of a second high-voltage feed, and work on the creation of a new high-pressure gas main to the plant.

The gas main is being extended from Topside Road, located several miles south of campus on Alcoa Highway, to the Fulton Bottoms rugby field area. From there it will connect to the steam plant.

After the conversion of the boilers is complete, the final phase of the project will begin with the removal of the plant’s 300-foot smokestack, electrostatic precipitator, and remaining coal handling equipment.


Brooke Stevenson (865-974-7782,