Coal plant helps keep Cherry Point warm at night


Paul Filzen, facilities maintenance manager at Cherry Point's Central Heating Plant, stands near a massive pile of coal waiting to be fed into the coal-burning facility. The plant burns 26,800 tons of coal each year to distribute heat to buildings at Fleet Readiness Center East and other structures aboard Cherry Point.

Drew C. Wilson/Havelock News
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 10:46 PM.

It’s not unusual to see an operator just sitting around at Cherry Point’s Central Heating Plant.

“Relaxed and sitting is the preferred stance for an operator,” said Paul Filzen, facilities maintenance manager at one of the air station’s oldest and most vital operations. “When we walk through this plant, my operators will be relaxed and sitting. If the operators are running around, something’s wrong.”

One might expect to see a bunch of soot-caked faces at a plant that burns 26,800 tons of coal in a year, but the interior of the 70-year-old plant is remarkably pristine. The workers will likely be monitoring computer screens that indicate all phases of the plant’s operation.

The plant produces steam that courses through some 30 miles of distribution piping around the core of the base, providing heat and energy. Its largest customer is the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair and maintenance facility.

Parts of the plant are routed with what seems like an endless series of pipes in various sizes running this way and that. It all makes sense to the 23 people who work around the clock in five-man shifts to keep the steam flowing.

They don’t all stay clean, though.

Two coal handlers out back unload rail cars and stack the coal with conveyors and front-end loaders. They are used to getting dirty just unloading coal and delivering it to the boiler. Another dirty job is cleaning the plant boilers and the 86 package boilers that serve outlying buildings, but that is only done in the summer when the need for heat is low and most of the units have been shut down.

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