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230,000 sq ft paper mill conversion

Joe WJoe W Posts: 2Member
Email me at [email protected] I can help you >
Thanks Joe


  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member
    260,000 Sq ft Paper Mill conversion- to Film/TV studio

    Looking for ideas or consultants to help us figure out if we can use the steam heating system that ran the paper mill (connected to huge boilers that have dual purpose - heating space and running plant machinery) into a usable system of some sort (that will not cost a fortune). We just bought the building
  • Brad White_166Brad White_166 Posts: 2,391Member
    Are the boilers still used for

    operating machinery and if so, at what pressure?

    Coupling the post-process steam to heating systems has been done for well over a century and a half. The higher pressure that turned a mill beam engine or turbine would be reduced to heating-level pressures at the end of the process and run through piping to complete the condensing at least partially. The application is routine.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the process load (machinery) can far exceed the heating and ventilating load. So if the boilers are no longer driving machinery, expect to do some careful analysis of radiation versus boiler capacity. Expect some over-sizing.

    If you own the whole building you have more options than if you own just a condo unit within it. Where is it located?
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Perry_3Perry_3 Posts: 498Member
    The heating system should be OK

    The steam heating system, supply pipes, heating units, and condensate return pipes are probably OK with some maintenance (rebuluild steam traps, repack or replace some valves, some fan maintenance). You will probably want to install a much more appropriately sized boiler as it was sized to operate the plant equipment and the heating load would have been very very little of its capacity (and most likely not even considered).

    One thing to look for and report is what pressure the steam heating system worked on. Likely 50 PSI, but could be any number of other pressures.

    Somewhere on the boiler will be a nameplate with all kinds of information. Key things to report are: Lbs per hour, Pressure, and outlet temperature (this could well be a superheat boiler). There may be two pressures listed.

    If you find the nameplate - post a picture of it and report what the numbers say for each section.

    Same with a heating unit.

  • Joe_75Joe_75 Posts: 57Member

    I have done a few of these conversions. Paper mills especially older ones use a large amount of steam I would not be surprised to hear that you had multiple boilers(fire tube). I did a retube for a very small tissue operation that continuously over fired a 20,000lbs per hour Nebraska boiler and depending on your location and useage 20,000lbs may be oversizing. I would look for a good engineer or call the manufacturer.
  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member

    Brad..All the machinery has been taken out, and yes, the seller pointed out, as you have said, the the 3 massive boilers (they must be 18'wide x 12'tall) did produce steam for both heating and the machinery. The mill is located in central Massachusetts, just outside of Greenfied
  • John, you need to do two things:

    1. Do a heat loss on the building, and

    2- Measure up the radiation to see if it is adequate. It's possible some radiation was removed at some point.

    When you know the radiation is adequate, size a new boiler to the radiation.

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  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member

    Perry, I am 1 1/2 hrs drive away from our new home,,,Next time up there I will get the info you mentioned.Once that is in place, do you think it is smart to stay with steam or try to use the pipping for a hydronic - forced hot water system and try to create some zones?
  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member

    Thank you. I am hoping to find a consultant on this site that might have some clear ideas. I appreciate the help
  • Brad White_166Brad White_166 Posts: 2,391Member

    As Steamhead and others suggest, a heat loss and radiation survey is a must-do.

    Do you have an architect you are working with? Are you planning on insulating and improving the envelope?

    Write me off line and let's see what can be done. I am in Massachusetts, Boston area. There are also excellent steam practitioners in the central MA area.

    It is at once a blank slate. The condition of the piping is critical and it could go either steam or hot water. Steam has the ring of history to it.

    Sounds like an interesting project.

    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be right!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Perry_3Perry_3 Posts: 498Member
    Other things to look for.

    I sure wish I could walk it down - these are industrial sized boilers and systems - my cup of tea (Note that I am a homeowner who participates here - and a Power Plant Engnieer with lots of experience in power plants of all vintiges and even in one paper mill in Upstate NY).

    I live in Wisconsin so Maine is a bit far - and was hoping you had gotten one of the old Wisconsin or Upper Michagan mills where I could drive to.

    My assumption is that you will need to remove those large boilers and install a new boiler sized to the heating load when you are done. It is really unlikely that they will be the right size or pressure - and it would be really inefficient to operate them for a fraction of their output and reduce the steam pressure. I believe you would may also need licensed boiler operators for boilers of that size and might need them 24/7 (vairies from state to state). The rules are probably much different for an appropriate sized heating boiler.

    One thing to look for in the plant. There will be (or have been) a number of controler boxes for regulating valves (feedwater flow to the boiler, pressure reduction valves, etc). These will almost certainly be pneumatic (copper or SS lines going from the controler to the valve actuator) The controller box should have two small pressure gauges; one for supply air (0-100 PSI typical); and one for the output (0-25 PSI - or less typical) - but pressure ranges may vary.

    Since this is an old paper mill - I can assure you that the original controllers were likely filled with a large quantity of mercury (a cup to a pint or more per controller). If the pneumatic controler has a heavy bolted on steel cup on the bottom of it then that cup will contain the mercury. Now it is possible that the controllers have been previously replaced - or even tore out with the equipment. But this is something you should check on. Disposal is relatively easy - you remove the controllers as a unit and keeping them upright at all times - deliver them to a mercury disposal company. It used to be that the value of the mercury exceeded "disposal" cost and this was a "free" disposal (at least it did 15 years ago when I stripped a old power plant of about 20 mercury filled pneumatic controllers). In a way, its a shame - those old controllers worked so well with very minimal and infrequent maintenance and adustment.

    Of course, if you can't recongnize what a controller is - then get someone who can (and who can tell you if it likely has mercury in it).

    As long as the heating system is largly intact it could be used with perhaps some minor modifications and repairs. Your best bet would be to hire a proper heating design for what your use would be and size a new boiler to match the existing heating system; and perform the minor repairs needed - and modern controllers where needed. I will note that this might be more difficult if you are going to break the building up into condo's.

    While you are in the boiler room - look for an office with a bunch of manuals. The boiler manuals will have all the information you we are looking for. You should also have a manual on the feedwater pumps and a lot of other things (in reality - you should have at least a dozen manuals). Is there a lab with shelves that had been (or still is stocked) with chemical bottles, is their a small room - or a corner - with spare parts, filing cabinets with maintenance records and blue prints. All of those would have existed - and should still exist if the boiler plant was left in even near operating condition.

  • Stay with steam

    if there are ANY weak points in the piping or radiation, the higher pressure of a hot-water system will do a great job of finding them.

    You CAN zone a steam system. Thermostatic radiator valves and an outdoor reset controller like a Tekmar 269 work very well.

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  • Perry_3Perry_3 Posts: 498Member

    Don't be too surprised if this heating system operates at 50 or 100 PSI, and has individual steam to air coils with a fan (likely mounted overhead). It may also have a pressurized condensate return tank. A lot of paper mill and power plant heating systems were set up this way. A lot different than normal residential steam heat with very low pressures. Of course, it just might have low pressure cast iron radiators.

    That being said; I agree that it probably pays to stay with the steam as long as the piping is in decent shape. The individual heating units can have individual thermostatic controls, and replacements units are redily available. No reason a properely sized 50 or 100 PSI boiler cannot be installed. Since this is to be a commercial facility (TV studio) they may need to hire a licensed operator to check on the boiler from time to time (not sure what the laws are in Maine on that - it varies from state to state based on boiler size and/or pressure).

  • The pressure would have to be verified

    But I seem to remember it was common practice in those days to use exhaust steam from the process machinery, at drastically lower pressures, to feed the heat system.

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  • Perry_3Perry_3 Posts: 498Member
    Some common practices

    It all depends on how this plant was set-up as to what the common practice of the day was.

    The dryer rollers need steam that is hotter than 212 F in order to quickly and efficently dry the paper. That limits the exhaust pressure for the drying rollers to above atmospheric. Of course, you can dry paper at lower temperatures - it just takes longer (and the paper machine probably operated at a multiple feet per second speed range).

    Did the paper mill have a steam turbine drive on the paper machine, or a power plant to generate electricity to run motors on the paper machine? If so, then you may have had fairly high steam pressures available (300 - 900 PSI is the common range for older plants - up to 1500 PSI for newer plants) from the boilers and would have had a condenser and the lowest exhaust pressure would be in the range of 25 - 29" mercury of vacuum. In this scenerio the heating steam could possibly be extracted from a stage of the turbine in the "above" atmospheric pressure range.

    Some plants used small turbines to run other pumps and had a had an auxiliary turbine exhaust system (15 PSI exhaust system being the most common).

    The exhast steam could have been condensed in a "deareator" which serves the multiple purpose of condensing exhaust steamm, removing dissolved oxygen, and heating the boiler feedwater. This system would have been much more likely if their was a paper mill power plant.

    Some plants took the exhaust steam from the steam rollers and other equipment and ran it through a power turbine to extract the remaining energy and get some "free" electricity.

    There are a wide range of possible pressure points (5 - 150 PSI) that could have been used for heating steam. In all cases the boilers could supply it direct through a reducing station for when the other plant equipment was shutdown if steam was taken from an exhaust stream or turbine extraction point (if the heating steam was not at boiler supply pressures).

    However, In the end the power plant and paper mill industry (and others) settled on higher pressure heating steam systems (50 PSI and up) on overhead steam coil/fan arrangements due to cost efficiencies of construction and ease of operation and maintenance. I can run a 1" - 1.5" steam and smaller condensate return line arround a plant this size at 50 - 150 PSI and heat the place (steam under pressure has a lot more energy content than home heating steam systems). I don't have to worry about sloping the steam and drain lines either so I can route the lines as I feel.

    I'll bet a "atomspheric (give or take)" saturated pressure steam heating system would need 4"-6" steam mains to get to the end of a paper production building - and the supply and return lines would have to be properely sloped. That is really unlikely in an idustrial plant like this (but I have seen stranger things in very old industrial plants).

    Key thing is to find out what it was designed for. Then work from there.

  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member

    Central Massachusetts- 30minutes north of SpringField, Outside GreenField
  • John AnctilJohn Anctil Posts: 6Member
    Location- Greenfield Massachuestts - full owership

  • Perry_3Perry_3 Posts: 498Member
    John: Take lots of pictures next trip.

    Pictures can be priceless.

    Take pictures of the boilers (from several sides), walkways, piping and valve stations, controleres, heating system components, etc.

    Does the boiler room have a basement with a pit under the boiler? Are the original coal hoppers and feeders still inplace? etc.

    Even if you can't post all of them - you could email them to me or others (or set them up on some site we could view).

    Is the heating steam piping insulated or not (some was, some wasn't), etc.

    That will help a lot.

  • GWGW Posts: 3,071Member
    old or new

    If you want to modernize, I can help, I'm in Easthampton, about a half hour away. We specialize in the Euro technologies, and have a pretty good grip on energy consumption. Check our web site out

    Is this building staying "as is" or are you going to tighten it up and insulate? Those beasts you have will be fantastically large especially if you modernize the building.

    Gary Wilson

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    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • John VJohn V Posts: 14Member
    Dont think it is practical

    to reuse old steam piping to heat individual condos.
  • ConstantinConstantin Posts: 3,782Member
    Thanks Perry!

    That was a really interesting post. I once worked in a series of cardboard plants for a client and the amount of steam they go through to get the paper moisture right for all stages of production is pretty amazing.

    We focused more on the management end, i.e. how to reduce the amount of scrap paper they were producing. It's pretty amazing how much scrap paper employees can produce when some yo-yo in the main office decides to incentivize them to do so.
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