Mar 302006
Authors: JAMES BAETKE The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Despite a temporary but debilitating heating breach on campus Thursday, CSU officials are standing behind the heating plant that keeps campus buildings warm and heats the water used in residence halls.

A majority of the campus is literally a steam-driven machine.

Many of the university buildings are heated and run by a steam-powered generator. Much of the hot water on campus is also heated by steam.

“The system is functioning as well as it ever has,” said Eric March, CSU building health and safety director.

March said the heating mechanism on campus is highly technologically and mechanically advanced. The steam plant on the east side of campus heats treated water and then jets it as pressurized steam through 10 miles of pipes that travel to every campus building.

Once the steam reaches buildings, it is converted to hot water and dispersed through a system of smaller pipes and valves. Unused water returns to the plant on a return line where it is reused, March said.

“A drop of pressure is a true indicator there is a breach,” March said.

This pressure drop is what alerted steam plant operators to deprive every building on campus Thursday of heat and most buildings of hot water, said Roger Elbrader, CSU district energy manager. The entire campus was without heat and hot water before noon.

Lance Light, a remote boiler and chiller supervisor with CSU facilities, got partial steam being pumped back into campus buildings before 3 p.m.

“We’re bringing the plant back up,” Light told the Collegian Thursday afternoon.

Roger Elbrader, CSU district energy manager, said facilities workers would be better able to assess the breach today.

CSU uses a partial steam energy system because it is easier to work with and reuse.

“Steam is used because it is easier to distribute it,” Elbrader said.

The steam system works using three boilers and 10 miles of pipes, five miles of which are in underground tunnels and trenches.

“The system works very well,” Elbrader said. “We do a superb job based on the staff and financial levels we operate on.”

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