Abbott Power Plant: Building for the Future


  1. On Thursday August 31st and Thursday, September 7th, Abbott Power Plant on the University of Illinois campus at Urbana-Champaign took delivery of two, high-efficiency gas boilers weighing in at 237,000 pounds a piece. They represent the final pieces of a five-year upgrade that will take the plant into the second half of the century.
  2. A remote control, 10-axle trailer moved the boiler up Route 45 with police and bucket truck escort to secure intersections and lift power lines along the route to the plant on Oak Street in Champaign, Illinois.
  3. When Abbott went online in 1940, the U of I’s peak electricity usage was 3,400 kW. Today, a single computer science building like the Siebel Center can use 480 kW, and a petascale supercomputing facility like Blue Waters demands 11,000 kW. Add to this, heating and cooling over 500 buildings on the main campus, and you begin to realize the daunting task facing the staff of Abbott, who have had to plan not just for the next five years, but the next 45.
  4. Since 1940, Abbott has continuously incorporated new technology to help the plant provide efficient, reliable steam and electricity for the U of I campus. Abbott's systems can use coal, natural gas, or fuel oil. In 1986, the plant installed a wetscrubber to remove BOTH sulfur and mercury. To this day, it remains the only university facility to have this technology.
  5. Abbott continues to lead as it replaces its 1970s-era gas boilers with high-efficiency, low-emission versions. The first was replaced in 2015.
  6. In between, there have been many steps to get to this stage of the project. Crews replaced a gas turbine engine and added an inlet cooling system that increases the efficiency of the steam turbines by cooling them with outside air.
  7. The most visible portion of the project, was the dismantling of the plant's south stack, as it will no longer be necessary with the new boilers.
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  10. With the stack out of the way, crews worked to remove the old gas boiler--all 250,000 pounds of it. Moving something this heavy requires a hydraulic sled and track.
  11. Securing and leveling the track takes the better part of a day. Shims and more shims ensure the track is level.
  12. By mid-afternoon, the track is ready and the boiler is on the move.