Coal to Gas Conversion – A Major Capital Project in Rochester
Much of our focus in Rochester during the past year has been about photonics and the millions of dollars being provided and spent on development of photonics technologies. This focus has overshadowed investments in other less flashy manufacturing projects. Many of these other opportunities, new and old are located in the repurposed Eastman Business Park (EBP). A decade ago, when Kodak was phasing out and tearing down buildings in the park, there was a fear among many that it would become another huge sink hole for the super fund, and a blight to our community. This fear was increased when Kodak went into bankruptcy. A working group was formed in an effort to make sure this didn’t happen.
An unusual alliance of business representatives as well as city, county, state and federal officials met regularly to find a path forward. They were able to overcome ideological differences and focus in a unified way on critical areas to be addressed. Two major Items included the chemical ground pollution and the utilities infrastructure. There was a need for someone to own and operate the power plants which included a number of coal fired boilers. The plan included eliminating the pollution created by the coal burners and bringing them into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Boiler MACT requirements. The task force’s work, planning and vision paid off. A buyer was found. RED took ownership of the power generation and this year they sold their assets to Iron Clad Energy, who will now operate the facility. Last week a celebration and groundbreaking took place for the conversion of the boilers from coal to gas.
Not only is this a milestone for EBP, it is a win for the community as well. In addition to converting the boilers, miles of gas pipe will need to be installed to feed the boilers. This project, with the boilers and the pipeline represents over 90 million dollars of investment. It is one of the largest capital projects being undertaken in Monroe County and the largest project to be undertaken at Eastman Business Park in nearly a century.
All of this work will create hundreds of construction jobs while it is being built. At the end of the project, carbon emissions will be greatly reduced. With the present price of natural gas, the operational costs may be reduced as well. Lower costs, less pollution, EPA compliance, more jobs, stability and a plan for the future. It seems like a perfect outcome. Well almost. I do see one missing element. Wouldn’t it be nice if the gas to fire those new boilers came from New York State rather than being imported! We can all hope that in the not too distant future the fracking ban will be lifted and clean, economical, southern tier gas can be piped into Eastman Business Park. That would be the ultimate complete solution.