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Boilers: Long-term thinking required

06 September 2016

Lower total life costs are among a number of benefits delivered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) heating solutions, explains Gregor Dalgleish, commercial sales manager at Calor

When it comes to choosing a new commercial boiler for an off-mains site, many operators may be tempted to focus on minimising the initial capital costs of the boiler and installation rather than considering its total life costs. However, while this may help to balance the books in the short term, maintenance and fuel bills can have a significant impact that will affect the site for years or even decades to come.

Capex versus opex

Buying boiler equipment and paying for its installation can represent a major investment so it is understandable that these can dominate the discussion around choosing a new system, especially when capital expenditure budgets are tight.

There is a risk, however, that this focus on the up-front costs can be rather short-sighted when it comes to looking at the whole life costs of the installation. A typical boiler will have a 15-20 year lifecycle, and over this time operational costs – which will include fuel bills, maintenance and service – are almost guaranteed to be significantly greater than the initial spend.

For many commercial and industrial sites, this kind of long-term thinking can highlight one of the key advantages of an LPG boiler over oil or any other renewable solution – namely that it can be significantly cheaper to purchase, install and maintain.

Furthermore, the choice of a boiler system can tie the site into a particular type of fuel source, which will be one of the biggest factors on operational expenditure over the duration of a boiler’s lifetime. Operators often overlook this, but it can save valuable costs further down the line. When a site is operating off the mains gas grid this is another area where LPG scores highly.

While no one can predict the comparative prices of different fuels over the coming decades with absolute certainty, it is possible to make educated predictions about the security of supply for different fuels. This is one area that LPG delivers on, with its long-term availability strikingly clear.

Long-lasting decision

The benefits of thinking long-term when it comes to choosing a boiler – and a fuel source – can be seen at C&D Foods’ site in Larkshall, Norfolk. The plant produces approximately 20,000 tonnes of dry pet food every year, which requires a significant amount of fuel.

Situated off the mains gas grid, the company has for the past 20 years used Calor LPG to fuel a collection of large on-site industrial dryers that reduce the moisture content of the dry pet food.

In the summer of 2014 Calor approached C&D Foods with a plan to dramatically improve its existing oil boiler efficiency and lower its carbon output.

Ian Harridge, general manager at C&D Foods, explains: “Calor removed the existing large oil tanks and installed six 4,000 litre LPG tanks, as well as a vaporiser that can give us extra power when needed. Calor then supplied and installed a packaged gas burner to allow us to modify the boiler from its original oil burner.”

The ability to install a packaged gas burner meant the entire boiler system did not have to be replaced, which would have incurred substantial costs.

The key benefits of LPG

The reduced overhead costs and improved operational efficiencies achieved with LPG was a key driver for C&D Foods, and since the system was installed the company says it has saved more than £50,000.

LPG’s reduced CO2 impact compared to oil was also a critical reason behind the site’s decision to fully embrace gas for its processes, as the site continues to work towards the Carbon Trust Standard. LPG is currently the lowest off-mains carbon emitting fuel available on the market, emitting 20% less CO2 per kWh than oil. Since switching to LPG, C&D Foods has reduced its CO2 emissions by 52%.

 
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