NASA / Chris Cassidy
Shared Screenshot Abma Space Walk

Gratitude, Relief Lift BOILER 2022

April 16, 2022
Overcoming delay, well-attended Dallas gathering kicks off new era for American Boiler Manufacturers Association, focused on service and the supply chain.

By ROB McMANAMY, in Dallas

The smiles were genuine and the relief palpable among organizers and attendees last week, as BOILER 2022 finally arrived in Dallas, overcoming a six-month delay caused by the pandemic.

More than 900 attendees and 80 exhibitors converged on the inaugural boiler technology conference and expo, arguably surpassing even the American Boiler Manufacturers Association's earliest expectations for the new show when it was first conceived more than five years ago. A packed show floor was matched by standing room room-only education sessions that fueled the two-day event, which targeted for the first time the entire boiler supply chain, and end-users, in particular. 

ABMA President Scott Lynch, ABMA Board Chair Doug Wright (Superior Boiler), and Event Chair Eric Graham (Webster Combustion) all expressed joy and gratitude in their opening remarks on April 12, before handing the microphone to keynote speaker, Capt. Chris Cassidy (USN-Ret.). 

The former U.S. Navy Seal and one-time commander of the International Space Station inspired the crowd with vignettes from his storied career, including hopeful examples of U.S.-Russian cooperation in Space during his tenure.

Even as geopolitical tensions over Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine have now returned U.S.-Russian relations to the frostiest of Cold War depths, Cassidy was able to update the assembly on the anxious fate of the U.S. astronaut who had been serving on the Space Station with Russian cosmonauts for nearly a year. Despite some anxious political moments here, he said, the multinational crew had returned to Earth safely on March 30.

Indeed, safety, service and responsibility were the continuing themes of Cassidy's keynote, and he was able to tie it into the U.S. boiler industry in a way that seemed to resonate with the audience. Displaying a photo that he had taken during one of his many space walks, Cassidy described the effect that such rarefied perspective had afforded him.

"I had never really been what you might call a tree-hugger before, but seeing our planet from Space gave me a profound appreciation of what we have here," he said, noting the visible fragillity of Earth's atmosphere. "That thin blue strip on the left there keeps all seven billion astronuats on Spaceship Earth alive."

Adding an Earthbound anecdote, Cassidy recalled his first deployment to Afghanistan after 9/11, when he and his men had received a detailed nighttime orientation briefing from a rather intimidating senior officer. Afterward, in the dark, he had found himself situated awkwardly next to that same officer in a cramped, makeshift latrine. Seizing the new opportunity to simplify his earlier message, the commander chose to reassure Cassidy. "Just make good decisions and bring your men home safely," he said. 

In Dallas, Cassidy adapted that simple lesson to tell attendees, "Make good decisions and do right by your organizations."

With that in mind, attendees from all over the U.S. visited several rows of ABMA member exhibitor booths, an outdoor Mobile Boiler Parking Lot behind the conference hotel, and attended a variety of 10, one-hour educational sessions that spanned both days of the event. Topics included subject matter such as the Role of Steam in Decarbonization; Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) for Ultra-low NOx Emissions Compliance; Ins and Outs of Water Treatment; The Evolution of the Boiler Technician; ASME Code Requirements; The Hidden Truth About Condensing Boiler Plant Efficiency; and Revolutionizing Inspection and Cleaning with Robotics.  

Not surprisingly, the 'green' theme remained a strong thread throughout many of the sessions and booth product displays. "'Green Steam' is here," said presenter Xavier D'Hubert of XDH Energy Consultants, presenting on decarbonization. "You actually don't hear much about it, but there will be more waste-to-energy projects coming," he predicted.

Such projects are already very common in Europe and Asia, D'Hubert noted. So manufacturers in the U.S. should ready themselves for future growth and familiarize themselves more with concepts such as torrefaction; sequestration of green power generation; methanation; microgrids; and thermal energy storage. "There is even old technology receiving a lot of new interest and many demonstration projects are currently under way," he added.

In the end, ABMA seemed pleased not just with the industry turnout, but with the level of enthusiam BOILER 2022 had managed to sustain during its extended planning period and then to summon and re-generate when the curtain finally rose. And that momentum already seems to be carrying over for BOILER 2024, now set for Denver. May any hurdles for that next planned event be considerably lower.

For more information on exhibitors and presenters, visit www.boiler2022.com.