Boiler Explosion Shuts Down Philadelphia CHP Plant

At least one person was injured when a boiler exploded at the Veolia Energy Schuylkill Station combined heat and power plant in Philadelphia on June 15. The 163-MW natural gas–fired plant provides steam for the city’s district heating system as well as power to the grid.

According to media reports, the blast occurred around 3:15 p.m. EDT in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philadelphia. The injured person was not a member of the plant staff but rather a bystander across the street who was struck by flying glass. Witnesses reported a loud noise and vibrations when the explosion occurred, as well as a cloud of dust rising over the plant. Numerous photos of the dust cloud were posted on Twitter.

Veolia spokesman Paul Whitmore told POWER, “Veolia North America experienced an eruption at our Schuylkill Station steam facility shortly after 3 o’clock today. The incident was contained to the inside of the facility and there was no fire. There was one minor injury treated at the scene and all employees have been accounted for and are OK.”

“Thermal energy services are uninterrupted at this time and we are shifting the steam load to our satellite facility as a backup,” Whitmore said. “This plant provides thermal energy to approximately 300 clients in Philadelphia. The company will conduct a full investigation to determine what happened.”

The Schuykkill plant was built in 1998 by Trigen Energy Corp. and Cogeneration Corp. of America. Then known as the Grays Ferry Cogeneration Facility, the project was named one of POWER’s plants of the year in 1999. Veolia purchased the Philadelphia district heating system in 2007 and upgraded the plant with new high-efficiency, rapid-response boilers in 2012.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

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