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Preferred Utilities still has equipment from 30+ years ago functioning in New York City housing establishments. Lately though, We have taken on retrofitting projects that are focused on a sustainable future for NYC.

This includes updated burners and controls, like the API burner and FlexFit Linkageless Controller, as well as Renewable Fuel options for eliminating carbon emissions, meeting new NYC regulations, and leaving room to improve if more stringent regulations come along.

The article 1,713 Mammoth Boilers, and Winter Weeks Away” discusses the challenges facing the Housing Authority, and pictures Preferred controls!

As winter approaches, the city is racing to ready boilers in the nation’s largest public housing system, where widespread heat outages have repeatedly left many of its 400,000 low-income residents shivering in their homes. Many of the boilers are old; some were built in the 1950s. With temperatures dropping, the fragile, antiquated heating network imperils a large portion of public housing residents: children, older residents and people with health conditions.

Read more here!

 

Luke Amory

  • YOU are at risk and have a responsibility to keep your online identities secure.
  • Use a password manager like Lastpass or 1Password.
  • Use multi-factor authentication hardware keys like a YubiKey or a Google Titan Key. Check twofactorauth.org for supported services.

Introduction

Passwords– we all use them, we all loathe them, and they often fail us when we trust them to keep us secure. Everyday technology is becoming a more integral part of our lives but what largely hasn’t changed is the use of passwords as our primary method of securing our access to that technology. A password is a secret piece of information shared between a user and a computer or service that is used to identify whether a certain interaction is authentic. Because a password is just a piece of information, anyone who can obtain that piece of information is able to impersonate authentic interactions on the user’s behalf. This is often the greatest downfall of systems that rely exclusively on password protection. In 2018 alone there were more than an estimated 446 Million records exposed in data-breaches around the world (Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), 2018.) The data from these attacks often contains username and password credentials.

Thankfully, in the last decade most organizations now store passwords in a secure hash rather than storing the password itself. This means that even when a password data is exposed in a breach, an attacker needs to take a few more steps to reveal the user passwords. The secure hash used to store passwords is “non-reversible,” meaning you cannot undo the hash and derive the password. This means that the only way an attacker can learn your password is by repeatedly guessing inputs to the hash function until the output of the secure hash function matches that of the password contained in the data-breach.

Using modern computing technology, a well-equipped attacker can calculate these secure hash functions at a rate of approximately 100 Billion per second. As threats to our online security grow, it is imperative that we all take measures to secure our online accounts and Identities. What is a “great” password, though?

Each place we go to seems to have their own opinion and it feels like every time we create a password; we endure this process:

  • Password: bohemian TOO WEAK: MUST CONTAIN MIXED CASE
  • Password: Bohemian TOO WEAK: MUST CONTAIN TWO NUMBERS
  • Password: Bohemian75 TOO WEAK: MUST BE GREATER THAN 10 CHARACTERS
  • Password: BohemianRhapsody1975 ERROR: MUST BE LESS THAN 18 CHARACTERS
  • Password: Boh3m1anRhapsody TOO WEAK: MUST CONTAIN A SYMBOL
  • Password: Boh3m1@nRh@psody ERROR: WAIT! NOT THAT SYMBOL, TRY AGAIN
  • Password: Boh3m1anRhap$ody ACCEPTED

At the end of this process, what are we left with? A password that is difficult to remember. So, what do we do? We write it on a sticky-note and stuff it under our keyboard and hope the IT person doesn’t come scold us. Or, we commit the password to memory and end up reusing it everywhere, exposing ourselves to more risk.

The worst part is that this password isn’t even very secure.

Threats to your Online Security

There are many ways to strengthen a password. The key is to find a balance between something that is secure and something that is easy to remember. To identify what strengthening techniques work best, we need to look at the threats to your password’s security. Attackers are very resourceful and can range in capabilities from an individual to a nation state with literal armies and virtually unlimited resources. The best defense tool anyone can have is to avoid being targeted all together.

The ratio of capable attackers and vulnerable individuals makes it generally unlikely that unless you are a public figure, CEO, political activist, or enjoy Facebook flame wars; you will never become the victim of a targeted attack. That being said, there is a good chance that you will be compromised by a more indiscriminate attack that compromises many accounts at once like a data breach detailed above. These attacks can be largely mitigated by taking a few steps to better secure your online identities.

The first step in increasing the security of any online account is increasing the length of your passwords. By increasing the length of your password, you are making it more difficult for an attacker to preform what is known as a “brute force attack.” A brute force attack is when an attacker will hash every possible combination of characters up to a certain length. This process becomes exponentially more difficult as the password length increases. For example, if you are using a simple password that is 8 characters long, a resourceful attacker can try every combination in about 3 seconds. If you just increase the length of that password to 12 characters it will take 2 weeks to crack. In the same way adding mixed case, numbers and symbols will also make brute forcing much more difficult. A simple password with only lower-case letters has a character set of only 26. A good complex password that includes mixed case, numbers, and standard keyboard symbols has a character set of 95. Using the same example above, if we instead use a complex password with a character set of 95 at a length of 8, the brute forcing process takes 19 Hours and a length of 12 takes 174 Thousand Years!

Generally, rather than trying every combination of every letter number and symbol, an attacker will perform what is called a “dictionary attack.” A dictionary attack will leverage a combination of previously exposed passwords and common words against the secure hashes. Just as increasing the length and character size exponentially increased the search space; using a dictionary exponentially reduces the search space and therefore the time it takes to crack a hash. Once the available dictionary elements have been exhausted, attackers will start permutating the dictionary with rulesets. These rulesets contain everything from simple substitutions like replacing ‘e’ with ‘3’ and more advanced rules for appending important dates, sports terms, and other regional vernacular to greater increase the likelihood of a successful crack. A resourceful attacker with a good dictionary and ruleset can crack around 70% of real-world passwords in a little under 15 seconds. The reason for this speed is that we all seem to use similar features in our passwords. Many seemingly secure passwords cracked with this method look something like: ‘Yellowstone987!’ and even though an attacker would be still calculating brute force hashes against this password until long after the heat-death of the sun; this password is still extremely vulnerable to dictionary attacks.

This seems to draw from the way we make our passwords. We start out with the intent of using ‘Yellowstone’ as our password and once a website or service presents us with rules for our password; we generally append some numbers and a symbol. Attackers are so successful because they tune their dictionaries and rulesets to account for this common behavior. For this reason, a new recommendation for creating ‘Great’ passwords needs to be inherently crack-resistant otherwise attackers can adjust their dictionaries and rulesets to combat the new method. An even more successful strategy that attacker uses is what is known as Phishing.

At one point or another we have all received an email with questionable intent, coaxing us into opening a file or click some embedded link. Attackers will craft these messages to either contain a webform disguised as your email provider’s login page or a file with a hidden program designed to exploit an unpatched vulnerability in your computer. Sometimes attackers can gather enough information about a single target that they are able to tailor the content of these messages to increase the likelihood of a successful attack. Some strategies can include impersonating a superior in your organization with an urgent request or masquerading as a vendor looking for immediate payment on their latest delivery. Targeted attacks such as these are known as Spear Phishing. In the event that an attacker is able to compromise your email account they gain foothold into your network of email correspondents and they can immediately launch many more spear phishing campaigns against your colleagues, customers, and vendors.

The main takeaway from this is that no matter how “great” your password is you will always be vulnerable to attacks like these unless you use other methods of authentication in conjunction with your “great” password. Once an attacker gets a hold of your password via brute-force, dictionary, or phishing attack, they will immediately begin what is called a Credential Stuffing Attack. More likely than not most of us reuse the same password in many places. Attackers know this and if they are able to get a hold of something like the login for your car insurance account they will attempt to use or “Stuff” that same username and password anywhere they can think of. I.e. Facebook, Email Accounts, Banking Accounts. Unfortunately, these attacks are another extremely successful way for attackers to compromise your accounts. It is for this reason that it is so important to use unique passwords for every account you have.

Recommendations

Now that we know what the threats are, how can we defend ourselves? To start let’s review the guidelines that help defend against the attacks detailed above. Use a Long Password Long Passwords increase the time it takes for an attacker to brute force or dictionary attack your password by exponentially increasing the number of possible combinations an attacker needs to guess before correctly guessing your password. Use a Complex Password with Numbers and Special Characters Complex Passwords with large character sets further increase the search space an attacker needs to guess through before they can guess your password; making it less vulnerable to dictionary. Avoid Passwords with Predictable Patterns Patterns like appending numbers and characters to the end of your passwords or replacing ‘I’ with ‘1’ do not add much security to your password and make it easy for an attacker to permutate these types of suffixes and substitutions. With these above rules in mind a great memorable password strategy is to string four common words together. XKCD, a STEM oriented comic explains it well:

To improve on this strategy, try to use uncommon words or words from other languages to increase the difficulty of a literal dictionary attack against your password. When adding numbers and symbols to a password like this avoid the space between words and rather insert in the middle of words without substituting an existing character. This password strategy is great, but it doesn’t help with these other guidelines that improve your security:

  • Change Your Password Frequently (Every 12 Months) Because data breaches often go undetected, changing your password on a regular basis reduces the likelihood that your password has been exposed by decreasing the amount of time an attacker can spend guessing your password.
  • Use Multiple Factors of Authentication Adding a second or multiple factors of authentication significantly reduces the effectiveness of phishing campaigns and drastically improves your security overall.
  • Use a Unique Password for Every Account By using unique passwords in many places, you will be protected from a compromise of one account permeating to the rest of your online identities.

It is easy to know these guidelines; it is another challenge to implement them in your online life. These rules do not scale well and as soon as you accumulate more than a few accounts, changing and storing many long and complex passwords pushes the limits of the human memory and discipline. These rules are just not practical. Without augmentation, even the most devoted individuals will have problems with these guidelines.

Thankfully, there are many tools that have been developed to help users manage their passwords. These password managers allow you to save all your account usernames and passwords in a single location that can be securely accessed on your computer or mobile device. In addition to saving your passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive notes, password managers can run as an extension to your web browser. This extension can automatically populate usernames and passwords fields with either your own passwords or passwords that are generated with a random series of letters numbers and symbols that make it impossible for a successful dictionary attack.

Overall these password managers mitigate all the attacks detailed above and drastically improve your online security. Lastpass & 1Password are both very full featured password managers that are well integrated with many mobile and desktop operating systems. Though a password manager greatly improves your defense against phishing attacks, it does not outright prevent them. Multi-Factor Authentication solves largely solves this by requiring users to provide more than one piece of information to assert their identity.

Traditionally, services will only require one factor of authentication, typically a password. A password would fall into the category of “something you know” which, as detailed above, can be a flawed system if used improperly. Other categories can include “Something you are” which covers biometrics like your fingerprint and iris. “Somewhere you are” is the process of observing locations of users to identify abnormalities. “Something you do” consists of monitoring your behavior and actions in comparison to previous interactions to identify impersonation. “Something you have” relies on your existing access to a device or service that can assert your identity such as an ID card, a cellphone with a rolling security key, or a physical hardware security key such as a YubiKey or a Google Titan Key. Not all sites support Multiple factors of Authentication. To check which services support Multi-Factor Authentication go to twofactorauth.org Google has produced some research on securing accounts with different types of Multi-Factor authentication.

As shown above hardware security keys and mobile push notifications are by far the most effective method for preventing account takeovers. These methods are largely immune to compromise from a remote attacker. Mobile Push notifications and hardware security keys can be simple and effective, but they are largely absent from many services portfolios as they are complicated for each service to implement correctly. There are other solutions such as storing rolling security keys in an app like Google Authenticator or Authy but this process is clunky and these are much more vulnerable to phishing attacks. SMS notifications are good enough for most people but can be vulnerable to targeted attacks that allow for SIM card spoofing and SMS network compromise. In summary, securing ourselves online is a responsibility that we all share. Making yourself more secure can be easy if you use a password manager and, when you can’t, use a more informed strategy for creating passwords like the one detailed above. For sensitive accounts like your email and financial services, implement some form of Multi-Factor authentication. If you feel that you may become the victim of a targeted attack, consider consulting a personal security professional.

References
Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). (2018). 2018 End of Year Data Breach Report. San Diego, CA: Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Retrieved from https://www.idtheftcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ITRC_2018-End-of-Year-Aftermath_FINAL_V2_combinedWEB.pdf
Kurt, T., & Angelika, M. (2019). New research: How effective is basic account hygiene at preventing hijacking. Mountain View, CA: Google Security Blog.
Randall, M. (2019). Password Strength. Retrieved from XKCD: https://xkcd.com/936/

 

NEW PRODUCT ALERT!

Background: In the past, using anti siphon valves between the day tank and a generator has been discouraged due to the low vacuum capability of generator pumps. A generator fuel oil pump may only be able to pull 5 in. Hg. In addition, there is a filter installed between the day tank and the generator pump that takes a 2-3” Hg pressure drop. This means that only 2” Hg could be available to open an anti-siphon valve, which poses a problem for most designs. Engineers have addressed the need to prevent siphoning from a day tank by installing a solenoid valve that opens when the generator pump turns on. However, this solenoid needs to be wired and is dependent on the controls functioning properly.

Solution: Now, Preferred has a better solution! We now have an anti-siphon valve that will open with only 2” Hg of suction available, and it is designed for application between the day tank and the generator pump. In addition, this Low Vacuum Anti Siphon Valve is UL Listed. For diesel handling components, it is important to ensure the valves one is purchasing are listed by a an agency such as UL as it ensures compliance to a standard and that the product has been independently evaluated. This Low Vacuum Anti Siphon Valve is available in ½” up to 2” NPT.

 

Experts from Preferred Utilities help them identify their problem, and then get it solved.

The Block Island School in Rhode Island has been considering some major upgrades in 2019, and although they’ve hit a couple of snags along the way, Preferred Utilities Manufacturing was able to help them solve a heating oil problem that threatened to stymie their whole project.

Back in March, school staff discovered a troubling heating oil spill that needed addressing. The heating fuel spilled out of a vent pipe to the school’s roof and then onto the ground below, near the playground behind the school’s south wing.

In a recent article in the Block Island Times, Sam Bird (the town’s facilities manager) said that it was not an easy diagnosis. The culprit, he and the representatives from Preferred realized, was a check valve in the fuel supply piping that did not open to send the oil back to the main tank after an electronic control unit failed. 

“The valve had not opened, or had not had a reason to open, for years,” Bird said. With the valve stuck shut, the pump still going, and the return line closed off, the oil had nowhere else to go except out the roof vent. After a few minutes, the valve opened and the fuel flowed back to its tank, and no more oil spilled from the vent. To fix it, Preferred recommended that the school replace the electronic controls on the pumps and valves that supply fuel oil to the heating system. The new system will bypass the day tanks with new piping to create a closed system, preventing the same kind of spill from recurring

After the installation, Preferred will return to start the new fuel supply system and train town or school personnel to operate it.

In addition to addressing this fuel oil problem, the school’s operations staff also had the site tested for asbestos, and the results were negative. So they are good to go with their eagerly awaited renovation project!

Preferred is happy to have the opportunity to work with schools like the Block Island School to help them solve pressing issues in their physical plants. With winter weather looming, is your school or college looking at spending too much on heating?

Call us, and we’ll look for ways to increase your efficiency and save you money!

 

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. According to a study by the University of Maryland, there is a hacking attempt every 39 seconds. And, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 will exceed $150 million.

We live in a connected world. These connections allow for a pace of commerce and communication previously unimaginable.

As everything becomes more connected, threats to the cyber security of commercial facilities and industrial equipment grow every day.

Traditionally, when working with operationally sensitive equipment such as HMI/SCADA Systems, the established practice has been to “Air-Gap” your equipment and prevent any access from the outside world. Globalization, regulations, & advanced data analysis techniques have made this practice obsolete and costly to your bottom line. Plants that choose to be “Air-Gapped” lose out on new innovations that allow for increased oversight and efficiency optimization to plant systems.

Now, you can connect to your facility and equipment from anywhere without compromising the security of your operations.

The Preferred Cloud Remote Monitoring Platform offers three levels of encrypted, secure, and continuous analytics on your equipment, while recommending cost saving and preventative maintenance options to reduce downtime and emergency service.

 

Wondering how to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2025 or 80% by 2050?

If you’re thinking you need to completely retrofit your entire boiler room, you’re wrong. There’s more than one way to meet your goals AND stay within your budget.

Preferred’s FlexFit Controller Retrofit Package, is the easiest, least expensive, most efficient way to go linkageless. This controller adds O2 trim, draft control, VFD and valve-proving capabilities as a standard and helps you meet your emission reduction goals too!

See the NYSERDA funded study by Steven Winters Associates that recommends linkageless retrofits!

Bring some Combustion Joy home for your operators, custodians, and superintendents this Fall.

 

Join us for a presentation on engineering & designing fuel oil systems!

Thursday, September 26th, 3 PM EST.

Experts John Haber and Ed Twiss, PE, have over 30 years experience designing fuel oil systems in the greater New York City area, as well as complete knowledge of all NYC codes.

Register HERE!

 

By David Bohn

Read the article in Facilities Manager here!

Upgrading or replacing a boiler system presents one of the most daunting and expensive challenges a large facility can undertake. When the time comes—whether the current system is outdated and inefficient or it fails outright—facility management must take the time to fully understand the process in order to set facility management goals and make the right decisions to fulfill their energy and efficiency needs. Right now, a substantial number of colleges and universities, as well as more than 1,200 Veteran’s Administration medical center campuses across the country, are all undertaking system overhauls like this.

These system upgrades are driven primarily by environmental concerns. Most of the facilities will need to update their equipment, but some will require a full-system replacement. It’s a huge undertaking—but most administrators believe that the long-term savings will make the effort worthwhile.

Why make the change now?

One of the driving factors in getting this change implemented right away is regulatory. California, Texas, and New Jersey have implemented air quality standards that will not be met by older boiler systems. They must be upgraded or replaced.

These old systems often used technology that sacrificed environmental safety in favor of cost savings. Some systems incorporated metal mesh burners, which utilized filters that clog easily. The gradual clogging of air filters leads to less excess air, which leads to higher NOx emissions. NOx emissions are a combination of nitric oxide (NO) and oxygen. Nitric oxide is the result of fuel combustion and alone is not considered hazardous; however, combined with oxygen, it is the source of fog, acid rain, and ground level ozone, which has been linked to myriad health issues. And while some other systems might have utilized technology to reduce overall NOx, these systems had increased electricity costs.

A second reason for a system upgrade, therefore, is to address these cost concerns. Today’s upgrades do not require air filters, which used to add to operation costs. Upgraded systems also offer quick-change, dual-fuel capabilities, switching between gas and oil firing in less than three minutes. This saves on service costs, since multiple people are no longer needed to make the changeover. The greatest cost reduction, however, is in the demand for electricity. There is a reduction of up to 60 percent in electric consumption.

One way to realize a cost savings is by employing a system that allows one to adjust the output according to the demand. This adjustment is achieved via what is called the unit’s “boiler turndown ratio,” which is the ratio of the maximum heat output to the minimum heat output at which the boiler will operate both efficiently and controllably. As the desired temperature/pressure point is reached, the heat source is turned down, and if the temperature/pressure falls, the heat is turned up. In large campus applications, which require boilers to operate at a low proportion of their maximum output, a high turndown ratio is desired, and that can be achieved with modern upgrades. Traditional burners using fiber metal mesh provide a 3:1 turndown; however, with recent advancements in the field, there are now systems that can provide a 9:1 turndown or higher depending on NOx requirement. These systems can achieve ultra-low NOx emissions without the use of FGR (flue gas recirculation).

In addition to the cost savings realized through a 9:1 turndown, there is also the reduction in required maintenance. Not only are multiple people no longer needed for a dual-fuel changeover, but operating and monitoring the systems are also simplified. Older systems require constant maintenance to ensure fuel efficiency and emission control. For example, many older systems include jackshaft linkage. Due to the complexity of these systems, they require constant fine-tuning and maintenance by highly skilled operators. Maintenance of an upgraded or new system is far less complex.

Newer monitoring equipment also means fewer people are needed for hands-on examination of the system. Typically, with an older system, there was a boiler in each building—and that meant someone needed to be on location to monitor those systems. The ability to house the entire system in one location, or to upgrade the system to monitor from one location, results in lower maintenance costs.

Campuses making the changes

Higher education is becoming a competitive industry and honestly, who chooses a college or university because of how new the boiler equipment is? The utility plant is seen as a cost, and universities generally choose to invest in new buildings or facilities that will help them attract students. But with environmental awareness now a prominent part of the national discussion, universities are starting to see the value (both economic and otherwise) to going green. Here are a few examples:

A small, elite liberal arts college in Duchess County NY was working with old boilers that essentially could not fire. To fix the problem, they chose new burners that were compatible with their old boilers which saved them a great deal of money since they didn’t need to replace the whole system. They also replaced their vacuum condensate system for further modernization and efficiency. They are now planning to buy a second burner and are interested in a solution that burns liquid wood.

A prestigious medical school outside of Boston invested in new burners. Their solution provider helped them with reliable low life cycle cost/best value payback on their low pressure steam boilers by providing three 800 HP burners and a feedwater system. They burn natural gas with #2 oil as a back-up, and are actively considering carbon neutral fuels.

The campus heating plant main boiler suffered from several crippling issues at a large public college campus in upstate NY. Working with a vintage 600 HP steam boiler, the burner had a triplex nozzle system that was an issue from day one. The burner was low fire, disastrous and unrepeatable when cycled, and created uneven fires from the three nozzles that would not hold a tune-up. The nozzles constantly needed cleaning and adjusting. Only one person in the boiler room could keep it running for more than a week. They went with a proven installer who recommended a solution that holds a tune-up and remains stable with cycle repeatability in the lower firing ranges.

A medium sized Christian College in Providence RI was interested in going far beyond EPA requirements in order to reduce their emissions and maintain their electrical and combustion efficiency. They selected a solution to achieve the best of both worlds: 22pm NOx on two 900 HP burners with natural gas and #2 oil, with Burnermate Universal controls on both burners/boilers.

A very small private college in central MA was provided a 600 HP burner for an old boiler that was previously fired by a burner from a company that went out of business a few years ago. They also selected the Burnermate Universal controls. Before this, they had been shut down for a few years and faced an unreliable boiler plant. They chose the fuels that were readily available and may consider other options as they continue to invest in infrastructure.

VA Medical Center Case Study

VA Medical Center, Erie, Pennsylvania – Generally, systems that have been in service for 25 to 30 years would require replacement instead of an upgrade. Their system had been in place for three decades and required complete replacement. In order to make the most impact with this important project, they built an entirely new boiler plant from the ground up.

The engineering team at the V.A. determined that existing system had met its lifespan, and they wanted to replace with latest technology. Any short-term replacement would have simply been a Band-Aid. They realized, however, that a project of this magnitude would take time to do properly. The engineering team at the V.A. chose Greenland Enterprises, Inc. to handle the entire project based on their central plant expertise and track-record at other healthcare facilities.

Based on the campus steam load, they determined that the replacement equipment would consist of two 400-horsepower boilers and one 200-horsepower boiler. Installation of the new boiler system took four months. From the ground up (including the new construction), the work on the project took 14 months to complete.

This new plant will provide at least a 60 percent reduction in electricity consumption, which will be accomplished using a variable frequency drive. This technology can run with fan speed at a lower rate. For example, changing the power from 60hz to 30hz speed can cut the horsepower by eight times. Therefore, a 400-horsepower system would be cut to 60-horsepower. According to Steve Seckler, Vice President of Operations at Greenland Enterprises, “Most systems can go from 60hz to 40hz easily. We chose a system that can efficiently go all the way from 60hz to 15hz for additional savings.”

Fuel reduction provides cost savings over the life of the new system. Newer boiler systems can offer a savings of two to five percent. This means that one 400-horsepower boiler with a fuel cost of $500,000 annually can save between $10,000 and $25,000 a year. This new Erie plant, with its two 400-horsepower boilers and one 200-horsepower boiler, will save the hospital between $25,000 and $62,500 in fuel costs annually.

Is it time for an upgrade at your facility?

A boiler upgrade project like the one undertaken at the V.A. Erie Medical Center is clearly something that takes significant time and money to complete. But in the end, management determined that the expense and effort will pay off in the long run. Could it be time for you to look at a similar project for your facility? Here are some points to consider when making your decision.

Sustainability

In large facilities, sustainability can be neglected when considering boiler systems. Facilities like college campuses often rely on older boilers and choose the “Band-Aid” approach of patching and maintaining them out of necessity. This method is not sustainable. Upgrading to a new boiler is the best option for long-term, sustainable improvement.

Sustainability also refers to the environmental impact of a system. With ever-changing state requirements, it is important to choose a system with enough flexibility to face these new demands as well as future ones.

Fuel-efficiency

To sufficiently meet the heating and energy load demands of healthcare facilities, old boilers burn an inordinate amount of fuel. New boilers bring added efficiency and substantial fuel savings. There is also much being done in the realm of alternative fuels for boiler systems. Bio-fuels and liquid wood are two segments of the alternative fuel market that are making great strides.

Operation and Maintenance

New boilers are streamlined to operate more smoothly and efficiently than old boilers, which can be challenging to operate and maintain. The older boilers often take much longer to heat up, and they are often kept running to meet heating needs. New boilers are designed to heat up quickly and can be adjusted to handle variable loads to ensure less energy consumption.

When considering an upgrade or replacement, no matter what the reason may be, all factors of the operation need to be addressed in preparation for a system shut-down. A project of this magnitude, from the initial bid process to completion, will require a minimum of several months (for an upgrade) up to a year or more (for a complete boiler replacement). The impact of this change, and thus the importance of the decisions made during the process, are why so many campuses are carefully reviewing their future energy options.

David Bohn is President and CEO at Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corporation, an engineering-based manufacturer of products for commercial, institutional, industrial and nuclear power facilities.

 

Read the article in Today’s Boiler

By David Bohn

If you can’t afford to replace your boiler system, new fuels and innovative technologies are the answer.

Fueling boilers has become more complicated. Many conventional fuels are now impractical because they can be dirty and expensive, and they are sometimes incompatible with modern environmental regulations. This creates a challenge since changing out an entire boiler system is a massive expense. Is it possible that your current system could work with new, environmentally friendly fuels?

The answer is yes, at least when it comes to these groundbreaking new fuel options.

The latest innovations in biofuel technology

Traditional biofuels such as wood chips or pellets, while preferable to non-renewable fossil fuels, have still been found to have a negative environmental impact that can be problematic in many applications. A relatively recent innovation in the sector involves replacing wood chips with a fuel known as “bio-oil” (also referred to as “liquid wood”). While this biofuel is more environmentally friendly, some users found it incompatible and difficult to use at first—but that is now changing. Boilers can be more easily modified to be compatible with liquid wood, and the cost is about one-tenth that of replacing the system.

Created by Ensyn Technologies Inc. out of Ontario Canada, liquid wood is produced using a thermochemical process called pyrolysis, in which wood is burned in excess of 500º C (in the absence of oxygen) and is transformed into a combustible liquid. Because there is no oxygen, the wood does not combust. It first becomes charcoal, and then further decomposes into gas and liquid. It behaves similarly to natural gas or crude oil except that it has much lower carbon emissions.

Liquid wood still has the advantage of being a renewable wood-based resource. The raw wood used to create liquid wood is harvested from tree farms—and more trees can continuously be planted to replace those used for fuel oil. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels and other non-sustainable sources is critical to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, and turning the raw wood into liquid wood fuel increases the environmental benefits even further.

An added advantage is that liquid wood is less cumbersome to store than wood chips or pellets. In order to utilize wood chips, the user must address two onerous tasks—turning the bulk wood into chips, and then storing the chips themselves until they are used. There is also the challenge of getting the wood chips or pellets to the burner as they are not often stored in the same location. The logistics involved in managing chipping and storage can lead to significant added costs, as Bates College in Maine discovered.

Bates recently overhauled their campus heating system. They weighed the idea of converting to wood chips, but they found that building a wood chipping plant and storing the wood chips on campus would have cost a startling $10 million upfront. When they realized they could achieve the same environmental benefits by converting to liquid wood instead of wood chips, while only spending $1 million on the conversion, the choice was easy. They implemented liquid wood as their primary heating source and saw their carbon footprint reduced by an astounding 83 percent.

What is Bio Residual™ oil?

One of the newest innovations in environmentally responsible fuel is bio-residual oil (BRO. This renewable energy source has 85 percent lower emissions that typical fossil fuels and has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in the United States by thousands of tons per year.

Made by Renewable Energy Group in Ames, Iowa, Bio Residual™ Oil is the biodiesel equivalent of No. 6 oil. It is made up of all the heavy hydrocarbons left over after the refining of biodiesel, which can be made from diverse biological materials such as agricultural waste, animal fats, and recycled cooking oil. BRO™ is too heavy and viscous to be burned in an engine, so Renewable Energy Group has been working with Preferred Utilities Manufacturing to test the capabilities of BRO as a boiler fuel.

Preferred’s engineers Chuck White and Dan Wallace have now adapted one of their burners to cleanly burn BRO.

Striking the balance between electrical consumption and NOx emissions

Although greenhouse gases are the chief focus of most sustainability goals, they are not the only emissions to consider. Industrial boilers also emit nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is a significant air pollutant and is the key component in smog. These NOx emissions are regulated by the EPA and state agencies, with standards becoming steadily tighter since the 1990s.

Unfortunately, decreasing NOx emissions means upping electrical usage—the lower the NOx, the more electricity required. This can be a source of concern for those looking at low-NOx burners. They face the tough choice of either getting a system with the lowest possible emissions while sacrificing significant electrical efficiency, or else using a higher emissions system (that might become obsolete in a few years if regulations continue to get stricter) in an attempt to save on electricity. This rock-and-a-hard-place dilemma is even tougher in states with high electrical costs such as Connecticut and Hawaii.

The solution lies in the flexibility afforded by a new generation of low-NOx burners with configurable emissions. These systems can be configured to meet current regulations or targets, while operating at the highest electrical efficiency possible. Should regulations ever change, the burner can easily be updated for the new target NOx levels.

The demand for fuels that will have minimal negative environmental impact and not contribute to harmful CO2 emissions is ever-growing for many reasons. Regulation of the industry is likely to continue and become more stringent, “green” methods are becoming more economically desirable, and, perhaps most importantly, manufacturers are actively seeking ways to use renewable resources because they believe it is the responsible thing to do. Innovations like liquid wood and BRO, as well as new configurable low-NOx burners, are helping customers to reach their renewable energy goals in ways that maximize positive results for their bottom line and for the environment.

David Bohn is president and CEO of Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corporation.