Alaska, heavily forested, built on rock and surrounded by water, every commodity that enters the country arrives by air and sea. The use of oil is a struggle for both the economy and the environment. Oil must come from elsewhere and be transported but of course by additional fuel, fuel that is subject to oil price stability.
A site that could help giving a solution to the problem is the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan. The site that provides information to more than a million visitors each year is also the site where a pilot biomass system is now coming to life. A two oil-fired boilers serving the 250,000-sq-ft center were replaced with a highly efficient system fueled by local wood was manufactured by Hurst Boiler & welding Company Inc. Another good thing about the project is that the hot-water boiler was custom-designed to fit within very limited indoor space.
To address concerns towards issues related to building space, fuel costs, comfort, reliability, simplicity of operation more especially environmental concerns, the biomass boiler system was developed by Hurst representative Gregory W. Smith of Global Energy Solutions Inc. under the direction of E. Dane Ash, project manager for Tyonek-Alcan Pacific LLC.
The excessive use of fossil fuels has been long a problem in any point of the world more especially to Alaska, the boiler system was intended to highlight how biomass can reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels. The Hurst S100 Series Fire Tube 27 HP Hydronic Water Heating Boiler features a pre-heater to optimize combustion and an underfeed stoker with dry-ash-removal system. The new boiler requires heating for a minimum of nine months a year; it is located at lower level of the Discovery Center. To protect form extreme moisture the local wood densified into fuel pucks is delivered to an elevated walking-floor storage bin in a vestibule area that is designed especially for the woods. It is important to protect the woods because the biomass-fired boiler can burn any wood product with up to 50-percent moisture content. Not to worry, freezing is not an issue because the walking floor easily breaks up any frozen contents.
Many benefits come along with the use of this biomass boiler, the country saved as much as two-thirds of the fuel costs. There is almost no residual ash when densified pucks are used. But, tree clippings from the Ketchikan walking trails will be ground and fed into the boiler, eliminating the need for transport to a landfill, burning, and other methods of disposal. The system easily can be replicated for heat or heat/power generation up to 20,000 kw. Systems that were improved by the new technology include municipal solid waste, as well as woody biomass for steam production and steam to power. In June 2011, Smith was a keynote speaker for the fifth annual Native American Economic Development Conference in Anaheim, California, he proudly flaunted the initiatives being implemented in Ketchikan and shared success stories of biomass-fired boiler systems installed on institutional campuses and in manufacturing facilities throughout the United States, particularly in challenging and remote locations.