Natural Gas Boilers

GE Global Research Center uses cleaner natural gas for boilers
December 25, 2018 – 01:00 pm
GE Global Research Center Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2010, in Niskayuna, N.Y. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union archive) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 00010194A
General Electric makes conversion under state clean-air permit plan

By Brian Nearing

Photo: John Carl D'Annibale

GE Global Research Center Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 15, 2010, in Niskayuna, N.Y. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union archive)

Photo: John Carl D'Annibale

Exterior of GE Global Research Monday, May 6, 2013, in Niskayuna, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union archive)

Photo: Will Waldron


The air around the sprawling General Electric research facility near the Mohawk River has gotten cleaner since boilers there are running mainly on natural gas, rather than the most-polluting form of fuel oil.

Combustion of that type of oil releases much higher levels of soot, sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain) and nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the formation of smog. Smog can worsen breathing issues for people with asthma and other respiratory ailments.

GE spokesman Todd Alhart said the fuel changeover in Niskayuna has already been done. "We use both fuels, but we are burning more natural gas now and that is the majority of our fuel, " he said.

Switching from bunker oil to natural gas reduces soot emissions by 96 percent, sulfur dioxide by 99 percent, and NOx by about 75 percent, according to figures from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In Niskayuna, the draft air pollution permit for the plant also reflects new federal limits for nitrogen oxide, which were adopted in 2012, and will also require GE to test boilers at Niskayuna to "determine actual NOx emission rates."

GE has been burning more natural gas because the price of the fuel has declined considerably, making it cheaper than fuel oil, according to DEC.

Natural gas prices have fallen because of a glut caused by natural gas hydrofracking in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states.

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