By Pat Dillon, Virginia Commonwealth University, Instrumentation & Electrical
For the past few years, the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond found that it couldn't account for about 16 percent of generated steam. The steam plant bills the various buildings and departments for usage to cover its cost of operations. New flowmeters in the generation plant and in more than 40 buildings now accurately monitor steam usage. As a result the losses have dropped to about 5 percent, and the steam plant is recovering more than $1,275,000 annually from increased billings.
The steam plant for the downtown campus consists of three identical boilers, each capable of generating 125,000 lbs/hr at 120 to 200 psi. The operators adjust the steam pressure to a value best suited to meet the load demand. Over the course of a year the plant puts out more than 400 million lbs of steam. Summer and winter loads range from about 45,000 to 140,000 lbs/hr respectively. Outlet lines for each boiler are 10- inch pipes, which lead to a 14-inch main. The main takes steam to a distribution network that reaches nearly 60 buildings, including three hospitals, the governor's mansion, and a museum.