11 thoughts on “Powerplant in Callowhill

  1. Apparently it used to be a plant for the steam loop. Check out this inquirer article from 1987 (sorry for the length):

    Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
    May 19, 1987
    Author: Dan Stets, Inquirer Staff Writer

    Catalyst Energy Development Corp., the New York conglomerate trying to save Center City’s shrinking steam loop, plans to convert one of the system’s oil- fired power plants to a waste-to-steam plant.

    A Catalyst subsidiary wants to spend up to $20 million to transform the Willow Steam Plant at Ninth and Willow Streets to burn 200 tons of garbage a day, according to R. Lee Torrens, president of the subsidiary, Catalyst Waste-to-Energy Corp. Torrens said the new garbage plant would not only be a cheaper source of energy for the steam loop, but also would be a marketing tool to attract new customers to the loop.

    Catalyst will haul steam-loop customers’ garbage to the plant, he said, providing incentive for them to stay on the loop and for new customers to hook up. Catalyst will charge for the hauling, but customers will be guaranteed a place to get rid of their trash, he said.

    “We are not sure what the pricing would be,” Torrens said. “We are not in businesss to gouge people, but we’ve got to make a little money.”

    Given the region’s garbage-disposal problems, with some companies having to ship waste out of state, Torrens said he expected Catalyst would have little trouble finding waste fuel.

    The plant, which Torrens estimates will take 18 to 24 months to convert, will handle far less garbage than the city’s controversial trash-to-steam proposal now stalled in City Council.

    The $280 million city plant proposed for the Naval Shipyard in South Philadelphia would burn up to 2,250 tons of garbage a day, a large chunk of the estimated 3,200 tons generated in Philadelpia each day.

    “We are not going to take care of the City of Philadelphia’s problem by a long shot,” Torrens said.

    The Catalyst plant will require an air permit from the city Department of Public Health and a waste permit from the state Department of Environmental Resources. Catalyst has not yet applied for the permits.

    “A 200-ton-a-day garbage burner tucked away in a neighborhood, nobody would ever know it is there,” Torrens said. The Willow plant is in a predominantly industrial neighborhood, just a block north of Callowhill Street. He estimated at least 20 truckloads of garbage a day would be delivered to the plant.

    The steam loop nows serves about 450 buildings in Center City. Torrens said the loop customers produce about 100 tons of garbage a day, half of what the plant needs to burn. “We solve a lot of their problems with this little plant,” he said.

    The Willow plant, now the least-used plant on the steam loop, would operate year-round. Customers use the steam loop both for heat and air conditioning.

    Catalyst purchased the steam loop from Philadelphia Electric Co. in late Janaury for $30 million. PE had operated the system, which once had more than 700 customers, for more than 80 years.

    The system is owned by Philadelphia Thermal Energy Corp., which is part of another Catalyst Energy Development Corp. subsidiary, Catalyst Thermal Energy Corp. The subsidiary also owns central-city steam systems in Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis and Youngstown, Ohio.

    Carl E. Avers, president of Catalyst Thermal, said the company’s “basic business plan” is to convert all of the gas- and steam-fired loops to solid
    fuels, such as trash and coal.

    The Philadelphia system has three plants, with the main plant at 2600 Christian St. on the east bank of the Schuylkill. The Edison Steam Plant and the Willow plant are used only at peak-demand times.

    Catalyst has engineers studying the conversion of the Schuylkill plant to coal, but there are no present efforts to convert the Edison plant, located in the heart of Center City on Sansom Street between 9th and 10th Streets, Avers said.

  2. I took a prospective buyer through there about two years ago. The interior of the place looks like a horror film – rusting metal, puddles and dripping water everywhere, and beaucoup asbestos.

    The owner told me an eagle or a hawk used to live up on the top floor, which explained why there were pigeon feathers coating entire sections of the interior.

    1. I’m interested in using this as the site for my adaptive re-use thesis project. Any idea where I could get architectural drawings? (Plans, sections, etc.?)

      1. did you ever find drawings? what’s your project about? i’m interested in an adaptive-reuse project for this site as well.

  3. I used to work there, I was a plant operator for 9 years (78 -87). I also waorked out on the steam line. It was the best job I have ever had.

      1. I worked there too I worked for Philly thermal about 18 yrs ago. It was a mess then. Don’t look like it’s changed much

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