Information on Columbia's Steam Lines - July 19, 2007

Information on Columbia's Steam Lines

July 19, 2007

In light of yesterday's steam pipe explosion at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, I thought it would be useful to provide some information about the University's steam operations and assure you that our steam system is being operated safely and properly.

COLUMBIA GENERATES ITS OWN STEAM
Since Con Edison does not supply steam to customers north of 96th Street, Columbia operates its own steam supply and distribution system. Our steam system consists of four boilers, which are located in the basement of the Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research (CEPSR). These boilers supply steam to the main steam header and then to the distribution system main header loop which is located in the power plant below Uris Hall. From the main header loop, the steam is distributed to the entire campus through 8" and 10" steam lines for campus heating, cooling and hot water. Much of the condensation that results from steam pumped out of the power plant is recaptured, cleaned, de-oxidized and re-used in the system, making it a clean and efficient process.

COLUMBIA'S STEAM PRESSURE IS FAR LESS THAN CON EDISON'S
The energy in Columbia's steam system is far less - about 25 times less - than the energy in Con Edison's steam system. We maintain our main line pressure at 50 pounds per square inch (psi) versus Con Edison's main line pressure of 125 psi. Therefore, if there was a problem with one of our steam pipes below Amsterdam Avenue or Broadway, an explosion would not occur. Instead, the street surface would become hot and steam would rise through existing street cracks.

WE REGULARLY MAINTAIN OUR STEAM SYSTEM TO KEEP IT IN TOP CONDITION
Columbia University Facilities has recently replaced most of our steam distribution system mains. In addition, our power plant is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and our tunnels are walked daily to conduct visual inspections of the steam system. Any steam leaks are easily located by visual vapor and are fixed immediately. In addition we conduct an annual steam shut down in May, which allows us to perform preventive maintenance and repairs to the steam distribution system.

Columbia University Facilities will continue to work hard every day to maintain a safe, reliable, clean and efficient steam system for the Columbia community. Should you have any questions regarding steam or any other Facilities-related issue, please feel free to contact me or the Facilities Services Center at x4-2222.

Matthew L. Early
Associate Vice President for Operations
Columbia University Facilities
Tel: (212) 854-4431