Facilities Services

Steam Shutdown 2016-2017

On June 19, 2017 at 9pm, after the last Commencement Ceremony concluded, Facilities Services carried out its annual steam shutdown

Steam Shutdown
James Gibson and Earl Nolen replacing the boiler blowdown valve.

Every year, a steam shutdown is performed. Why? In essence, the central steam system provides 24-hour operation of steam boilers for heat for air conditioning, hot water, sterilization and laboratory processes in buildings throughout campus. The purpose of the shutdown is to ensure a reliable and energy efficient supply of pressurized steam to campus facilities for the upcoming year and assists with the safety of staff who perform work in the four miles of steam tunnels below the campus. The critical maintenance, repair or replacement of equipment to the system during the shutdown decreases the potential unplanned failure of the system.

The work is typically performed each year after the last Commencement Ceremony in June.  The conditions this time of year have a minimal demand for steam, due to warmer weather and a decrease in the population on campus, and has the least impact on the campus community.

The shutdown is labor intensive, both in the Central Plant and the steam tunnels. Skilled trade staff will work 10-12 hour shifts for seven straight days to shutdown boilers, drain the system, make necessary repairs, reignite boilers, reintroduce high pressure steam, check the entire system for leaks and bring buildings back on line. This work is done in an environment that has no climate control where temperatures exceed 110 degrees, 24 hours a day, in a confined space, and labor intensive tasks are performed during each shift.  The main objective during the shutdown is first and foremost staff safety and also system safety when steam is brought back online throughout the campus. It is imperative that all safety measures are carefully followed.

In the past, the steam shutdown has typically taken nine days to complete. This year Facilities Services reviewed the activities required and was able to restore steam to full capacity in seven days. This feat couldn’t have been accomplished without our skilled staff and their expertise.

Steam Shutdown
Jesse Portillo and Greg Muro replacing piping on one of the steam boilers.
Steam Shutdown
A look inside one of our high pressure steam boilers.
Steam Shutdown
Unexpected discoveries highlight the importance of the steam shutdown. Above, damage is found to one of our deaerating feed tanks.
Steam Shutdown
Marco Lemus and Jesse Portillo replacing one of the boiler feed valves. This valve weighs over 500 lbs!
Steam Shutdown
Earl Nolan and Greg Muro replacing piping used to chemically treat and test boiler water.
Steam Shutdown
Chito Espiritu and James Gibson replacing the #3 boiler non-return valve.
Steam Shutdown
Fires are lit in the #5 boiler and campus steam is restored.

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