The steam cycle begins with Kent City water being treated. Calcium, magnesium, iron, and oxygen are removed and protective chemicals are added to prevent rust and scale deposits or corrosive damage to the inside of the boilers, pipes, and equipment. The water is preheated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit (deg F) and pumped into the boilers. Firing clean burning natural gas, and occasionally heating oil, with state of the art computer controlled low-NOx burners, the water is boiled into steam.
The process of converting water into steam puts a tremendous amount of thermal energy (known as latent heat) into the steam. It is this energy, more than 7500 British thermal units (Btu) per gallon of water boiled, which is used by the campus facilities throughout the system.
As the latent energy is used up doing work, steam condenses back to water. The condensate is returned back to the Power Plant and put back into the boilers where more thermal energy is added and turned back into steam. This loop is the steam cycle sending steam out and getting condensate back over and over again. The plant typically boils 100,000 to 200,000 gallons of water into steam everyday. Because the condensate is already hot (160-180 deg F), free of mineral deposits, pre-treated, and purchased, the plant captures and re-uses 90% and adds only enough water to make-up what is lost from the loop.
Natural gas is a much cleaner burning fuel than coal. Utilizing modern electronic controls and low emissions technology, it is less labor intensive and responds much faster to fluctuations in steam demand. Several processes have been incorporated into Kent State's new twenty-first century Power Plant in order to receive the maximum possible use of this expensive fuel.
The entire plant is designed to maximize efficiency by means of digital electronic metering and instrumentation. Extensive use of computers allows Kent State University to use less electricity, less compressed air, less water, fewer chemicals, less salt, and requires fewer man-hours to accomplish energy efficiency.