Beyond Boilerplate with ABMA’s Rawson

Randy Rawson, president of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association, will host a big constituency at POWER-GEN International, Dec.

Randy Rawson, president of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association, will host a big constituency at POWER-GEN International, Dec. 6-9, in Las Vegas. That’s because, more often than not, you can’t generate electricity without a boiler.

Thus, it’s a good opportunity for him to prep for his annual meeting Jan. 13-17 in Miami. Chief among issues on the agenda there is a task force to look at Boiler and Combustion Systems Hazards Code NFPA 85, overlapping regulations and anticipated changes as to building management and energy efficiency standards.

“It goes back to process controls and instrumentation running the systems being used in buildings for management systems and tying that into safety. Some of the regulations from the instrumentation-type associations really delve into that vs. regulations from NFPA and other sources - CSD1 (Safety Standards for Automatically Fired Boilers) from ASME... Is it reasonable regulation? Is it duplicative regulation? Is it sensible regulation?” Rawson says, drawing an analogy to spending $10 to make $11.

Rawson, president for five years, has been with ABMA since 1989. Before that, he was vice president of another association. Prior to that, he worked on Capitol Hill as an administrative and legislative assistant to a Congressman from his home state, Washington.

Although he’s spent over 15 years with ABMA, he doesn’t claim to be an expert on technical issues of boilers. But he knows the politics very well. As such, he said his association’s nearly 100 members are concerned about government deficit spending since that means less money for private sector investment and capital spending. Last year, they were concerned about steel prices, which have since stabilized. This year, a rebounding dollar affects exports, but so too does a level playing field in international markets “tilted against the United States.” And they’re always concerned about nuisance lawsuits - particularly asbestos litigation - and in favor of tort reform. Lastly, continued high fuel prices are a killer.

“Our systems not only respond to fuel prices, but we’re manufacturers that are businesses in and of themselves. Passing on those costs, how to deal with those costs - because this is a project oriented industry, you can bid on a project today and fuel prices can kill you in six months.”

The conversation shifts back and forth between remote analytical controls, homeland security, the economy, terrorism, good governance, the impact of summer hurricanes, as well as energy efficiency and a growing openness to alternative power sources such as biomass and biofuels, including those generated from wastewater off-gas.

The ABMA - like the pump industry’s Hydraulic Institute - works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy on process and operation issues affecting energy efficiency. One likely benefit of the hurricanes is, despite the devastation, upgrading aging boiler systems will make affected operations run more economically and environmentally friendly, he notes.

Rawson’s overall message: “The boiler industry is an incredibly high-tech industry that’s shown a high level of innovation in the last decade. And we’re positioned in such a way as to provide equipment and systems of the highest safety, efficiency, cleanliness and durability since the boiler industry began 250 years ago - the industrial boiler industry. It’s time to look at your boiler rooms. To replace those systems, again, will bring immediate efficiency gains, immediately lower emissions and also provide a new benchmark industry can build on in the future as regulations change. It’s a heck of a lot easier to tweak a new boiler system than one that’s 30 or 40 years old.”

In the end, he acknowledges, it all boils down to water. You can’t run a boiler without water and the purity of that water affects how energy efficiently the boiler runs. span>

Click here to read: An Interview with ABMA's Randy Rawson in full.

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